City have proved they are capable of delivering on the big occasion to leave Dundalk in their shadow

City have proved they are capable of delivering on the big occasion to leave Dundalk in their shadow
CUP WINNERS: Cork City's Kieran Sadlier celebrates with Seánie Maguire. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

CORK United did the double in 1941, Cork Athletic repeated the feat in 1951 and now Cork City FC have made history in 2017.

It was a day to savour for fans of the Rebel Army in the Aviva Stadium as John Caulfield and his side showcased their ability to produce on the big occasion.

The game, in the end, was like City’s 2017 season in a nutshell. They began it brightly, had a bit of a slump in the second half and when proceedings reached crunch point they showed what they were made of.

Given what went on in the build up it was fitting that Mark McNulty was the person that proved to be the hero. Penalty shootouts allow goalkeepers to shine and this loyal City servant well and truly delivered. The club have come a long way since when he lined out for them in the First Division back in 2010 that is for sure.

Achille Campion hits the net. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Achille Campion hits the net. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Another man who stepped up for this occasion was Frenchman Achille Campion. In City’s hour of need he got the leveller in extra time, finishing clinically from a Sheppard through ball. This win means so much and it is another chapter to what is a very successful period in the club’s history.

Many in the country prior to the final had seen Dundalk as the team that possessed the greater attacking threat. For large spells of the second half they played the slicker brand of football. But for all of their possession, they failed to break down an organised City defence.

Cork City have had Dundalk’s number in these big occasions over the last while and once again they produced the goods ensuring the silverware is heading down the Leeside direction.

It is a deserved reward for the sheer efforts that John Caulfield has put into this side as the manager. They have improved every year under his tenure and he had gradually got them to the top of the Irish footballing tree.

It was ironic that a Danish man stamped his authority on proceedings just a matter of days before his countrymen face Ireland in the FIFA World Cup Playoffs. Niclas Vemmelund’s perfectly timed header looked like it was enough to ensure that Dundalk secure FAI Cup glory.

Given the sheer tantalising battles that these two have had over recent years, there was perhaps little surprise that a penalty shootout was needed to seperate the two.

It is a testament to both Cork City and Dundalk and the high standards they have set for League of Ireland football that they were in the cup final for the third year in a row.

In both the Premier Division and the FAI Cup, they have gone toe to toe and produced some epic encounters. Both have set the bar for domestic football and it is up to the rest to catch them. Shamrock Rovers looked best equipped in the regard, but there can be no disputing the pair who have been the standard bearers.

From a neutral perspective, this was a good final and one which had people on the edge of their seats. Both sides had a go and were leaving it all out on the pitch.

Dundalk had already won the EA Sports Cup this term and they were looking to lay down a marker after relinquishing the league title they had won for the three years previous.

Cork City and Dundalk have shown by the build-up to the final that their rivalry is as strong as ever The Leesiders began this one full of intent and they showed they were up for the occasion. Sheppard, who is Dundalk-bound according to reports, was causing a threat when he was played in down the right. It was an open and attack-minded opening half of football and both sides were relentless.

The second half was a much tighter and tense affair. Patrick McEleney and Michael Duffy were among the most creative attacking outlet for the Lilywhites and it’s why they had the best of the play in the half. They showcased some of their slick passing football at times.

When extra time came and Dundalk took the lead, it looked as though City’s chance of winning had gone. But once again Caulfield’s men showed they have the heart, desire and should never be totally discounted.

The offseason is one of the busiest times of the year for a League of Ireland manager and it will be very interesting to see what happens in regards to comings and goings at some of the clubs ahead of the 2018 campaign.

With the prospect of Champions League football ahead, surely Caulfield and those at City will be aiming to go on and make their impressions on the continental stage.

The only thing City haven’t done at this stage which Dundalk have is get to the group stages of a European club competition. But before all that they should enjoy the celebrations and their historical achievement.

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