Sean Dillon’s army of fans has key absentee

Sean Dillon sits with the Scottish Cup at The Law, with Dundee stretching out below. Picture: Craig Foy
Sean Dillon sits with the Scottish Cup at The Law, with Dundee stretching out below. Picture: Craig Foy
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Military duties will again prevent United skipper’s dad from travelling to Scottish Cup final

Your life is not your own in the army, and for Regimental Sergeant Major Michael Dillon that means he won’t even get the time off to travel to Scotland and watch his son, Sean, captain Dundee United in the William Hill Scottish Cup final on Saturday.

Unless there’s a change of heart on behalf of the Irish army and navy, RSM Dillon will be organising a services event in Ireland, but at least that is a better billet than when his son was last in a Scottish Cup final.

Back in May 2010, when Sean collected a winner’s medal as part of the United team which beat Ross County 3-0 at Hampden Park, RSM Dillon was a battalion sergeant major with the 106th Irish-Finn Battalion who were serving as UN peacekeepers in the war-torn countries of Chad and the Central African Republic.

“My dad is struggling to get here,” said the United captain. “He missed out last time as well as he was in Chad. I am sure he saw the game online somehow.

“His job has changed a little bit in the last 12 months and he is back in Ireland most of the time now. He has to deal with a lot of the ceremonial stuff, things like parades and state visits.

“He still can’t get off, though, and that’s really unfortunate. I have no doubt dad will be watching the game. It’s just the case that he can’t get over for the weekend.

“I will have a chat on the phone afterwards and hopefully we will both be in good form.

“I know myself from doing this job that there is a lot of family gigs that you just have to miss out on. I am gutted he can’t come but it’s just the way it goes.”

Dillon appreciates the fact that his father and mother, Linda, brought them up well, but not as army brats.

“My dad has never been one to talk about his job and he never had us marching around the house or anything like that,” he said. At least Mrs Dillon will be at Celtic Park for the final along with Dillon’s sister, Niamh, both having missed out in 2010 for a very good reason.

“No family made it over the last time but my Ma is coming over this time,” Dillon explained. “My sister Niamh will be here too with my niece, who is also my godchild.

“[In 2010] my sister was due to give birth to my niece in the week of the cup final so herself and my Ma couldn’t travel. This time round they are both coming over.”

It has been a topsy-turvy sort of season for the Irishman. It started well as Jackie McNamara designated him club captain last summer, but he has made only 26 appearances in the tangerine shirt, the lowest since a similarly injury-bedecked season in 2008-2009.

He missed all of November and all of February, and has played in only one match in this season’s Scottish Cup, namely the 5-0 thrashing of Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Fitness and form have come good for him at the right time, however.

“The build-up has been good and we have had a nice time staying at the Old Course [hotel],” said Dillon.

“It is hard to compare it to 2010 and I don’t really like doing it. There are only Keith [Watson] and Morgaro [Gomis] and myself left from that time. There are a few from the backroom staff like [youth coach] Stevie Campbell but not too many on the playing staff.

“I suppose you can take the positives from the fact that we have won before, but I wouldn’t read too much into it.

“It is a great day, but you try to get away from the whole cup final thing, especially in the last couple of weeks we’ve been doing our best to stick to doing the normal.

“It’s difficult because every second day there seems to be something that you have to do, whether it’s the press or a photo or whatever, and obviously you get chatting about things.

“It’s nice that you can talk about the fact that you have been there and done it, and when you’re having a chat with the other lads they are asking what happened the last time.

“Basically it’s an unbelievable feeling to do it, and it was an amazing few days that we had. But the bottom line is that you have to win it.”

Dillon revealed that his 2010 winner’s medal is tucked away in a drawer at home.

“I brought it to Ireland with me during the summer because my granda wanted to see it and a couple of people had been quizzing me about it, but then once I brought it back I just threw it into the cupboard,” he said.

“My dad obviously gets a buzz off it because a medal to him is a big thing, and it’s a big thing to me as well, but it’s not something you go to and say, ‘Let’s have a look at my medal.’ The reluctance is because you don’t want to do something with your stuff, not because it shows that’s the end of it, but because it might get you starting to think, ‘What if I get another one?’ ”

The answer to that question will be known at teatime on Saturday.