OBVIOUSLY, Cork City would prefer to be in Dundalk’s position going into Sunday’s FAI Cup final at the Aviva Stadium in terms of having won the league.
However, ask City manager John Caulfield if he’d prefer to be in charge of a club backed by large investment – as Dundalk are, under the ownership of Peak 6 – rather than a fan-owned operation and you might be surprised by the answer.
“I don’t envy it at all,” he says.
“I want to be very clear, I came from amateur football, I worked all my life. And if I wasn’t here, I’d be enjoying the Jazz Weekend because I’d have been working for Diageo for the last three days.
"But I’m much happier where I am.
“Five years ago, I went into professional football with a plan, with a vision, I brought key management people in with the objective of growing the club, making it competitive and seeing where we’d go from there. "It’s what we’ve done. I don’t look at other clubs because we are doing it the way we need to do it, we’re running it well.
“But at the end of the day, as we’re seeing across the world if a team invests heavily and hugely, the chances are they’re going to dominate and that’s the way it is.
"We don’t take outside investment and that’s fine. So do I envy other clubs for getting that investment? No, but it does change the goalposts.
“If a team keeps investing heavily and buying all the best players, of course they’re going to win.
"What we’ve got to do is keep overachieving, keep working as hard as we can do, keep bringing players through, can we sell a fella, one player a year?
"Get into Europe and keep our wheels going. We have to run our own show. You can get caught up in watching other teams, but at the end of the day they can bring Patrick McEleney back from England and give him a very good contract.
"They were one of the very few clubs that could do that. We wouldn't be in that market, so we have to see if we can bring our own guys through, can we be clever and bring free-transfer players in, can we get the players that are playing with clubs that they can come to us and go to another level?
"Ultimately the challenge for any club is you have to have consistency.”
At this time of year, that means planning which players to sign and deciding on which ones might be departing.
That, on top of preparing for a huge game, isn’t easy.
“It's a fantastic job, I love every minute of it, but it's brutal,” Caulfield says. You end up with a number of players out of contract on Monday morning and you are out there trying to get players and 80 percent are out of contract.
"It's part and parcel of the job. The PFAI tell their players they are available to talk to clubs from the start of September because of employment law, so that's even harder as a manager.
"You have players talking to people even with the season going on. We had an incident with one of our own players last year on the week of the cup final.
"That's the League of Ireland and that's the way it is. The worst part of a manager's career is the next two weeks.
"You have so many players out of contract. It's nearly a more stressful period trying to get some sort of a squad for the next season.
"Thankfully, this year we have a number of the fellows re-signed.”
To that end, rumours of budget cuts for next year aren’t something that the manager is too worried about.
“Since the day I was taken on, I have worked within the budgets of the club,” he says. “Every year we sit down and we go through, like any business, how we run the club.
"I look after the football side of it, which is unusual – some people will only look after the first-team but I run the whole football side of it.
"Colin Healy is my academy guy, I have all my management team. We are in discussions about our budget for next year, like we are for every other year.
"But there was a lot of stuff being said about the Champions League and how we'd be losing €500,000-€600,000 – that was rubbish.
"We never invested that money last year. What we've been doing over the last number of years, we've had extra teams and extra costs.
"The U17s started, the U15s started, the women's have become part of our umbrella.
"So we have expanded our academy coaching as well.
“There is a lot of sensationalism out there about, ‘Oh, you are going to lose this or whatever.’ I'm sitting down at the moment, we've had a number of discussions about our budget, where we are next year, where we'll be at and that's the way we've always done it.”
Sunday’s game will be the sixth time for City to have played Dundalk this season.
While they won 4-2 in the President’s Cup in February, three of the four league games went the way of the Lilywhites, including the 1-0 defeat at Turner’s Cross in September.
Caulfield is naturally keen to get the result, but he doesn’t believe that that game is something that needs to be atoned for.
“The lads are determined, they don’t have a point to prove to me because I’m with them every day because they’re fantastic players and they’re great guys,” he says.
“I’m privileged to talk into the ground every day and deal with 22, 23 players who are training so hard and are great guys.
"We just have to perform and perform to our best, we went through a patch where we lost a couple of games, lost confidence, had a few injuries, some people probably had an overreaction, that probably happens in sport, a bad couple of games, we bounced back, we got to a cup final.
“We’d a bad run of form, we showed tremendous character to come back and gave a great performance in the first half of the replay.
“Okay, we ended up having three bad league matches all together but our form throughout the season, we’ve scored 71 goals, that’s two goals a game, just over half a goal conceded, our consistency, even our league form, we were top of the table going into Europe, we were leading up until that last-minute goal in the league game at Oriel Park.
“Our consistency throughout the season has been phenomenal.
"But it was those three games that put us out of the league.
"We’ve 20 clean sheets, we just had a bad three weeks but these things happen.”
Picking the team will be far from easy, though it is the proverbial nice headache for Caulfield, given the desire of everybody to want to be involved.
“It's a unique occasion in players' lives,” he says, “it's the one week that is different to any other.
“The league is week in, week out but the cup final is different.
"It's the biggest week of the year in our own football calendar.
"Young players see it and probably think this is it [every year] and then there are the older lads, so there are different emotions for everyone.
“Everyone wants to be in the 18 so there is an edge and you'd expect that.
"The main thing is the form is good and for fans to turn up in their numbers and enjoy the occasion.”