'A lot of people said to me, 'What are you doing?' - Pat's move pays off for Cup final hero Benson

'A lot of people said to me, 'What are you doing?' - Pat's move pays off for Cup final hero Benson
© Ryan Byrne INPHO Robbie Benson celebrates after Pat’s Cup victory.

THE REASONS FOR Stephen O’Donnell’s success at Saint Patrick’s Athletic are many and varied, but among them was his enticing a former-team mate from Dundalk to Inchicore. 

“The sensible and the sane thing was to stay at Dundalk”, says O’Donnell of Robbie Benson, whose outstanding FAI Cup final performance was capped off by his converting the winning penalty. 

“I suppose it would have been easy to say having been successful there but I just had the feeling that it was the right time to go”, said Benson. “A lot of people said to me, ‘What are you doing?’, but I had a vision of moments like this at St Pat’s and with Stephen.

“Thankfully it has materialised today. It was tough, I’m not going to lie. I had a lot of friends there at the time. It felt like I had done everything that I could have done there and just a new challenge in my career. I’ve won something now so I can say I made the right choice but I knew at the time that it was the right thing to do for me personally.

“As a team-mate and captain [O’Donnell] was always a great leader and someone you could have intelligent conversations about the game. He taught me a lot as a player and as a professional.

“It was no surprise that he brought that into management. All the lads inside love him and it’s great that he’s now a Cup-winning coach.”

Benson’s Cup-winning intervention ended a difficult week, following the passing of his grandmother Mary. 

“It’s actually been a tough week for myself personally”, reflected Benson. “My grandmother passed away last weekend and I was just hoping I could have a moment myself for my Dad as he’s had a tough week, it would make it extra special.” 

And extra special it was. This time Benson was on the right side of a shootout, having lost  twice on spot kicks with Dundalk. It wasn’t the first time he delivered from the spot against Bohs, either, having scored a 92-minute penalty to win a league meeting between the sides in May. 

“I knew I was going to score that one [in May] because I knew Talbot would dive and I’d just go down the middle. All week I was thinking that I’d wasted that one now.

“He was actually moving early for all the penalties and I was thinking about doing it but the only one I’d practiced was that one.

“This time I tried to do what Jay McClelland did as his was probably the best of the five. I kind of got lucky on the peno because my legs were gone all through extra-time. I’m sure you could see it. I’ve only had six weeks back from a long injury lay-off. I was glad to be able to stay on for the 120 and get the chance to take the peno.” 

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'A lot of people said to me, 'What are you doing?' - Pat's move pays off for Cup final hero Benson
© Ryan Byrne Stephen O’Donnell on snapper duties.

Like most of his team-mates, Benson’s contractual situation for next season has yet to be resolved, though is very keen to stay at Richmond Park. At which point, he says, the club can use FAI Cup success to build on this season’s second-place finish in the Premier Division. 

“Definitely. I was only thinking during the week: Cork won FAI Cup in 2016, became league winners 2017. Shamrock Rovers Cup winners 2018, league winners 2019. So that’s a good omen for us.

“It will give the lads belief. Hopefully we can keep the strong squad together and kick on again next week. It won’t be easy. Rovers have made a big signing and Derry will get stronger. Bohs will kick on again and Sligo will be challenging. It will be a good league next year and I’m really looking forward to.” 

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