EA Guingamp returned to Brittany bleary-eyed after their French Cup heroics on Saturday, but amid the euphoria of repeating their 2009 success the spectre of relegation looms large.
Stade Rennais FC had revenge in mind as they lined up at the Stade de France, the pain of defeat four years ago by a Guingamp side then in Ligue 2 all too fresh. Their Brittany rivals merely salted those wounds, however, with goals either side of half-time from Jonathan Martins Pereira and Mustapha Yatabaré earning a 2-0 triumph.
'Rivals' may be too strong a word. Rennes has a population of over 200,000, eclipsing the 7,276 that, according to the last census, call Guingamp their home. There were many more drawn to the town hall and Stade Roudourou on Sunday evening to welcome the players back from Paris, a raucous reception by a sea of red and black.
"We're delighted to bring the trophy back to the 22 [the number of the Cote d'Armor department on the north Brittany shore]," said coach Jocelyn Gourvennec as he paraded the cup to the packed square in front of the town hall. "We do all this for the joy of the competition, but also to make people happy. It a great pleasure to see we have done that."
Midfielder Lionel Mathis, the sole survivor from 2009, echoed those sentiments, saying: "It is a huge joy shared with the fans today. My eyes are tired – we have really celebrated this. It was a great moment, with our families and one or two drinks. It's wonderful. Once again we have taken Guingamp all the way to the top."
Mathis, 32, is not far from a summit of his own, having taken his personal haul of French Cup winners' medals to four having enjoyed success in 2003 and 2005 with AJ Auxerre. He is just one behind record holders Marceau Somerlinck, Dominique Bathenay and Alain Roche.
The players reportedly got to bed at 4am and were back at the airport by noon – there is no rest at this stage of the season. The challenge for Gourvennec, a former Rennes player, is now to keep his side in Ligue 1. They are a point above the relegation zone with three games to go, and on Wednesday they travel to the AS Monaco FC side they defeated in the semi-finals. "I'm confident this cup success will help the players avoid relegation," the coach said.
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