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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Mark McCadden

Brian Maher recalls Covid lockdown sessions with Cup final foe Brendan Clarke

Derry City goalkeeper Brian Maher has revealed how his opposite number in Sunday’s FAI Cup final kept him fit during Covid lockdowns.

Maher and Brendan Clarke were teammates at St Patrick’s Athletic prior to the pandemic, with Maher moving to Bray Wanderers on loan and then permanently in 2020.

Once restrictions were loosened, the pair met up for one-to-one training sessions, with veteran netminder Clarke passing on some of his experience to the young hopeful.

Something Clarke (37) might regret come Sunday’s Aviva Stadium showdown?

Maher (22) went on to become Ireland’s number one at Under-21 level - and he sealed a move to Derry City last winter.

He said: “(Clarke) was very good to me. He always looked after me at Pat’s. I might have been in with the first team for maybe a year before he came back (from Limerick).

“He just straight away was putting his arm around the shoulder and when I had tough times at Pat’s where I wanted to leave and stuff, he was good to me.

“Even during Covid when training stopped and we were allowed out in small groups, we went out and did training sessions together.

“He came to Raheny sometimes and we went to Phoenix Park and stuff when you were allowed to do outdoor activity in small groups.

“We just tried to have ourselves in the best condition we could. And obviously he has a few coaching badges as well so he was good at putting sessions on.”

The two goalkeepers still speak regularly to each other - although the phone calls and texts might stop for the next few days.

“I’ve no problem speaking to him. As the week goes on, there might be less communication until (next) Monday,” said Maher.

The Dubliner can’t wait for his first FAI Cup final experience as a player.

“I go nearly every year. I was talking to my Dad about it last night. Since I was about seven, I’d just go to the cup finals as a supporter,” he said.

“It didn’t matter who was playing, I was there when Sligo won, I was there when Pat’s won it.

“I was there a few years ago when Dundalk and Cork were playing all of them.”

Living in Derry, he can’t help but get swept up by the buzz around the city, with fans eager to wish him well ahead of Sunday.

“It’s great, even younger fans coming up to you in the shop,” he said.

“You get a sense of what Sunday means. But to be fair, you could feel it all year whether it was the Cup or the league.

“But it’s gone now to another level. You can see all the tickets that Derry fans have sold, it’s unbelievable.

“The city is going to empty on Sunday, and Saturday to be fair, I think fans have had their hotels booked for a while now.

“It’s brilliant, you can’t go somewhere without someone mentioning it and they deserve a big win like we’re trying to do on Sunday.”


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