Final Preview: Q&A with Ian Baraclough

Earlier this week Ian Baraclough spoke to the media in The Showgrounds ahead of the Sunday's FAI Ford Cup final with Drogheda United in the Aviva Stadium.
Baraclough was quizzed on a number of subjects by Alan Finn and Rory Houston. Read the full interview below. 
Question: There has been a lot of excitement as the FAI Ford Cup final approaches. How does it feel within the club?
Ian Baraclough (IB): It is exciting times. It is what we're in the game for. It is why we love it so much. As a player there is an expectation about national Cup finals. A good few our players have experienced it before and want to experience that winning feeling again. For me as a manager, as a coach, there is no greater feeling or sense of pride in leading your team out into battle and hopefully to glory. 
Question: Has you tried to bring a sense of normality to the group this week even with the Cup final approaching?
IB: We have. We work together, we prepare together, we eat together, we spend a lot of time with each other. We did something a little bit different as we did before the semi-final. We went zip-wiring before the Shamrock Rovers game. This time we had a pool and snooker competition in the Belfry, thanks to Kevin Quinn and his staff there. That went great and little things like that make the build-up a little bit more special than a league game.
Question: Joseph Ndo is your only injury doubt and apart from David McMillan being cup-tied, it is a full squad. Do you feel well-equipped?
IB: We have options. That is the great thing. We have some really good options in the team. We could go two or three different ways and that will be the question in front of Mick Cooke and Drogheda. We're going to try to ask the questions and hopefully they won't be able to come with the answers. We give Drogheda the greatest respect. We have played them five times this season and all the games have been close affairs. We have been installed as favourites for some reason but we won't take anything for granted for sure. We are going to make sure we cover all bases. The full focus is getting the result on Sunday.  
Question: The club has finished in the top three in the league for three years in-a-row. It is the first time that has happened in Rovers' history. But how important in the FAI Cup in the overall context of the season?
IB: When I first came to the club, the previous two seasons they were FAI Cup champions. They had great days at the Aviva. Great memories and it was drummed into me that we need that day at the Aviva again. To experience being knocked Monaghan at home, it really gave me an area of how this club and the supporters felt about the FAI Cup. There was real depression after that, none more so than at my house I can tell you. It was almost something that we had to go win the league to make up for that. This year we have not been able to retain the title. I think we made a good fist of it. We had a good league season. Ups and downs, started really well, middle part we faltered and that coincided with one or two injuries, suspensions and teams raised their games, us not taking our chances when they were presented. But at the end of the season it has been on a high again and hopefully we can carry that upward curve right to the end and win the FAI Cup and I would see it as a great season for this football club. 
Question: You have been made aware how much the Cup means to the club. But do you feel it is also important that to general public appreciate reaching another final because for example it may not come along for years again. 
IB: I don't think anyone can take for granted what you achieve in the game. As a club and as a supporter you have to fully expect periods following the club where there is depression when you go home after a game. At the moment you could be a Shamrock Rovers fan and they deeming their side to have had a terrible season after winning two trophies, but it's still looked at as a terrible season because they have not qualified for Europe so as a club, we can't take for granted that we should get European football every year and we should be winning trophies and you have got to work hard for those accolades and rewards. My players and staff have really hard to get us into this position, we qualified for Europe a number of weeks ago and now we want to finish the season on a real high by winning the Cup.
Question: Some of your players and Drogheda’s are playing in the Aviva for the first time. But as a manager is it an experience you are looking forward to?
IB: I fully intend on trying to enjoy the experience as much as I can. I am sure there will be a certain amount of tension on the day and I have experienced Cup Finals disappointment and elation as have members of the staff so it's our job to calm any nerves, put them at ease, try to help them enjoy the game and the whole experience that comes with it because I can tell you it's no fun being on the losing side in a Cup Final. People will tell you it's a great day to enjoy, but it's not, you'll only enjoy it if you win and I have got a group of winners here who have to and prove it one more time."
Question: As you said there has been ups and down this season but your belief in the players has been unwavering despite some of the knock backs. Has the manner in which they finished the season with such a good run rewarded that faith?
IB: They have put in a monumental effort this season, they really have, you don't always get what you deserve or work work hard for. This a game played by human beings, it's not a computer game, we're not machines, you have to go and deal with the disappointments that are put in front of you and sometimes you feel hard done by while other times you don't deserve to win games because you perhaps haven't put the right amount of effort in or you just have to hold your hands up and admit the opposition were better than you on the day. For most of the games this season I have had total faith in what the players have done, I'm proud of what they have given me so far and it's a proud season to look back on for everyone.
Question: Thousands of tickets have been bought by the Sligo public and the county is now covered with red and white in support of the team. Is that giving the players a lift? 
IB: It's great to see it, everyone is coming up to us and wishing us well, even from some people who haven't watched a great deal football before. That's really good to see because you are putting smiles on faces and making their week a special one and hopefully we can cap it all off with one big celebration at the end of it and hopefully it will last for many days as well, but firstly we have to concentrate on how much hard work is required to go on and make sure we do what we need to win the game and this week has been a good one so far.
Question: Rovers are favourites for this final but do you try to dismiss that in any way because of how finals can play out?
IB: I would downplay that. Yes, someone is going to be tagged as favourites but there has not been a great deal between the two sides in the meeting so far. Which team deals with the whole occasion and the tension of the game and the way the opposition play, how do they get to grips with their own game. Cup finals are littered with what are considered to be giant killings. I pointed out to the players at the start of the week. Who would given Wigan hope against Man City in last year’s English FA Cup final. A member of my staff, Gary Stevens, went in as a Tottenham player against Coventry and they were overwhelming favourites. He actually admitted they probably prepared to win the game. They though the game was already won and it wasn’t. It is people with experiences like that, you have to source from them and what they have understood from those game and pass it to the players. But not give them any fear. There is nothing to fear about the game. It is what we all work hard to try and do and achieve and winning another game of football.
Ian Baraclough was speaking to Alan Finn and Rory Houston at the Ford Ireland media day in The Showgrounds this week.  The Sligo Rovers club store is open from 10am to 1pm on Saturday in Tesco Arcade where tickets and merchandise are available to purchase. 

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