Peamount United manager James O'Callaghan: 'This is the closest team I've been involved with at Peamount'Fri, Nov 02 2018
Peamount United manager James O'Callaghan says a first-ever appearance at the Aviva Stadium is the least of their concerns ahead of Sunday's FAI Cup final.
The Peas have played second fiddle to Wexford Youths for the past couple of seasons as this weekend's opponents have racked up back-to-back league titles.
The first of those titles came about in dramatic circumstances as Wexford beat Peamount 2-0 in a last-day encounter at Ferrycarrig Park to steal ahead of their Dublin rivals.
Peamount gained some manner of revenge in September, however, as goals from Áine O'Gorman and Megan Smyth-Lynch saw them come from behind to win the Women's National League Cup.
That victory brought to an end a five-year trophy drought for the west Dubliners, who won the first iteration of the Women's National League back in 2012.
Despite getting that one particular monkey off their back, O'Callaghan says his team's sights are trained firmly on tackling the challenge of Wexford – and if they do that, the medals will follow.
“Wexford are a very strong, physical side, and are comfortable playing on the ball,” O'Callaghan told extratime.ie.
“They're a very good counter-attacking team. We're under no illusions how hard it's going to be against Wexford. We have our own plan that we've been working on in training.
“We've played them a good few times and they've beaten us more times than we've beaten them. We're hungry to beat them this time.
“We're not really thinking about the Aviva – we're thinking about beating Wexford.”
Much has been made of the experience in the Wexford ranks – the likes of captain Kylie Murphy and Nicola Sinnott have been part of all four title-winning sides in the past five years.
Peamount also have plenty of experience, with 100-cap Irish international O'Gorman and Karen Duggan having returned at the beginning of the season.
However O'Callaghan makes the distinction between playing experience, which he believes his squad possesses, and winning experience, which is much harder to come by.
That's why the WNL Cup win in September could prove so vital to his side's chances on Sunday as his players have a taste of the winning mentality that's spurred Youths to such great things.
“Wexford have a lot of experience of winning things. When we got our first win down in Wexford, it was great because a lot of our players don't have experience winning trophies, so it was important.
“If you look at it, they've won the league four times over the past five seasons with three different managers. The players they have are really good and their game management is phenomenal.
“Kylie Murphy there, she'll probably go down as one of the best players ever to play for Wexford. She's really inspirational to that team.”
One area Peamount have outperformed Wexford this season is in front of goal, where they recorded a phenomenal 77 goals this season to Youths' 59.
That figure could easily have been more had they not been awarded a walkover against Kilkenny, though Amber Barrett still managed to knock in 30 – more than two goals a game.
“Amber has been injured a little bit this season as well, and she's been sick, so she's missed a good few games.
“What's been good about Amber in the second half of the season is her workrate has been great.
“It's not just about getting the goals – her workrate off the ball has really improved and that's really pleasing to see.”
Despite finishing a distant nine points behind Wexford in the league, O'Callaghan believes it's been a good season for a side in transition – and a Cup win would be the icing on the cake.
“A lot of big personalities came into the team at the start of the season. It's taken a while for the team to get their identity, their best style of play, the togetherness of the team.
“Over the course of the season, we got there and we're peaking right now. The physicality of the game, they're looking fresh and the fitness is really good.
“The togetherness of the team is very important. I think this is the closest team I've been involved with since I've come to Peamount. They're really playing for each other now and it's great to see.”