'I can handle Cork City losing to Dundalk once they have a real go and play attacking football'

'I can handle Cork City losing to Dundalk once they have a real go and play attacking football'
Cork's Garry Buckely and Robbie Benson of Dundalk. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

I WAS going to start off by saying put me down for what I said last year, the year before, the year before that, and what I said in 2015 ahead of the FAI Cup final against Dundalk.

At this stage both teams know each other so well, there will be no surprise on Sunday in how they line out and what formation they will play.

I expect both teams to play the way they usually do.

Cork will start with the view of not losing the game, keeping it tight for as long as they can and then react as the game develops and gets into the later stages of the final.

They will be slow to commit men forward, they will play only one up top and try to get the ball from defence to attack as quickly as possible, and if that means bypassing the midfield, so be it.

Dundalk, on the other hand, will go for the win from the start.

They will set out their stall early. Their manager Stephen Kenny will tell his team go for it. Take them on and put them on the back foot from the start. They will want to play football.

He will want them to express themselves as he has full faith in his team, their ability and he has never played any other way.

For me, that is the correct way to pay the game. I can handle Cork losing but only if they give it a real go.

I have said the same in the panel below. For me, this is more important than the win.

I know that might sound crazy, but as a fan of this team, I want to see them left off the lease and take Dundalk on. I want them to play with no fear and attack Dundalk from the opening kick. When City have done this in the past, it has worked.

Dundalk are no different to any other team in the world.

They do not like being on the back foot. They do not like being under pressure. They do not like players in their faces. They do not like it when they do not have time on the ball.

Yes, Dundalk have played the better football all year.

They have scored the most goals and have dominated the Airtricity Premier League PFAI team of the year for a reason.

They have been the best team with the best players all year.

Six Dundalk players have been included in the team. One of Stephen Kenny’s players is also guaranteed to scoop the PFAI Player of the Year award with Pat Hoban, Michael Duffy and Chris Shields the three nominees.

Patrick Hoban has been on fire. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Patrick Hoban has been on fire. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

They join their colleagues Sean Gannon, Sean Hoare and Robbie Benson in the PFAI Team of the Year.

Cork have two players in the team. Sean McLoughlin and Kieran Sadlier are the only two in the team and that is right and fair. No other Cork player has played well enough to make the team.

So, we have established that Dundalk are the better side, have played the better football and will start this final as favourites. That won’t bother these Cork City players though.

They are great professionals with a great desire, drive and character to do well, especially against Dundalk and especially on the biggest day of the year, the FAI Cup final.

If I was basing this preview on form, I would put Dundalk down for the win.

Based on what we have seen over the season Cork are not as good as Dundalk. The league table tells us that too.

But Sunday is about more than form. It’s a one-off game to save the season, to show the world who is best and who has the most character.

That is why I give Cork a great chance. There are players in the City team that I would take to war with me if I had to in the morning.

Steven Beattie, Mark McNulty, Alan Bennett, Karl Sheppard, Gearóid Morrissey, Conor McCormack, Graham Cummins, Garry Buckley are all great footballers, but more important on Sunday is that these guys take losing to Dundalk personally.

They will do whatever is required to win. I just hope they are left do it.

Caulfield should say to them, lads I believe in you. Go out there, play smart, play for each other and show them no respect.

His team talks should not be about what Dundalk can or can’t do at this stage.

The players know it all already. Send them out onto the Aviva pitch full of confidence, ready to beat Dundalk at the own game and if they do that and fail, I will not have an issue.

Neither will the huge Cork following at the game. They have yet to see a great Cork performance at the Aviva despite winning the last two cup finals.

In both of these victories, Cork were very lucky and maybe the better team on the day did not win those finals?

You could argue that fact forever. So on Sunday, I want there to be no doubt.

Séan McLoughlin in action.
Séan McLoughlin in action.

I want Cork to prove once and for all that when both teams give it a go, they have the better players. I certainly believe they do and I expect to see the usual starters on Sunday.

The only place where there may be a surprise or two is on the City bench. I hope Daly-Butz makes it as well as one or two of the youngsters who have done so well in recent league games.

McNulty will be in goal. The back four will be Beattie, Bennett, McLoughlin and Griffin. The midfield trio will be Garry Buckley, Jimmy Keohane and Gearoid Morrissey with Sadlier and Shepard on the wings.

If Sadlier is unfit, I’d expect either McNamee or Daly-Butz to start. Up front, I think Graham Cummins will get the nod to lead the line.

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