A YEAR AGO, Cork City were seeking a double when they faced Dundalk in the FAI Cup final but it was a fraught situation.
Having stuttered in the wake of Seán Maguire’s departure, City finished their league campaign with less-than-optimal performances, so much so that the Lilywhites were favourites for the decider at the Aviva Stadium.
Had that transpired, it would have ended the season on a downer – just as it was for Dundalk a year previously as City denied them the double – but the Rebel Army triumphed on penalties to complete the double.
Having been on both sides of the pre-match situation – and also part of the 2005 City team that lost the cup final to Drogheda United after winning the league – City defender Alan Bennett admits that there is a risk of feeling disappointed, something he hopes they can exploit in Dundalk.
“You’re on such a high after winning the league, you’re flying along and then to have it clipped, because there’s no way back after the cup final.
“It’s definite and that’s why I absolutely love it because once you get ready and on to the pitch, it’s absolute freedom. You can do whatever you want in terms of your body and just go for it, for us it’s about putting in more longevity in terms of our performance, extending that 45 minutes.
“History says it’ll probably be tight, that’s what it’s been when we’ve played them the last while and I’d expect it to continue.”
City reached the decider with a 2-1 win over Bohemians in Monday’s semi-final replay at Turner’s Cross, grinding out the victory with solid second-half defending after an excellent display in the opening period which was an improvement on anything else seen in August and September.
“Semi-finals are tight,” Bennett says, “anyone I’ve ever played in, it’s always been the odd goal.
“There’s something psychologically, you’ve so much to lose, you start to tighten up. In the first half we were really good, back to something close to ourselves, but in the second half, I don’t know.
“It’s a psychological thing. There’s no question of fitness, it’s just you start to think about what you could lose. You start to retreat and you think about what you have on the line.
“It was the same kind of thing with Bohs up in their place. It’s the classic psychological thing, you shouldn’t think about it but it creeps in there. Look, we showed a bit of character and a bit of steel and we’re really happy.”
It’s a fourth straight final for City and a chance to be the first Cork team to do three in-a-row.
Bennett is certainly aware of what a great opportunity is it. I’ve followed this club since I was very young,” he says, “and to get to four finals in-a-row is unprecedented. For every Cork City fan across the country, county and the world, they have to appreciate this time and how massive it is for the club.
“It’s just an absolute pleasure to be part of.”