SEVEN years ago this week, Cork City beat Bray Wanderers 1-0 in the FAI Cup semi-final at the Carlisle Grounds.
Danny Morrissey scored the all-important goal to book the Rebel Army’s place at the Aviva Stadium, where Dundalk awaited.
It was City’s first victory in the FAI Cup semi-final since 2007, and it meant that the club were once again going to the biggest event on the Irish football calendar.
The cup story ended in defeat with Richie Towell netting the winner in extra-time, but that loss was the start of a golden era at Turner’s Cross.
They proved that 2014 when they brought the race for the Premier Division title down to the final game of the season, was not a one-off. It showed that Caulfield was building and that the team were getting closer to national glory.
City’s campaign began with a 2-0 victory over Wexford Youths at Ferrycarrig Park in May.
It was a routine victory over a team destined for the First Division title that October, with goals from Billy Dennehy and Mark O’Sullivan booking City’s place in the next round.
The club were drawn against St Patrick’s Athletic in the last sixteen, and bookies gave slim odds on City progressing.
The Saints were the defending champions and they had just qualified for the EA Sports Cup final. The team had two trophies within reach, and an out-of-form City stood in their way of one.
That August, John Caulfield’s team lost back-to-back games to Limerick and Shamrock Rovers. This handed Dundalk an advantage in the race for the Premier Division title, just days before the St Pats game at Turner’s Cross.
Two goals from Garry Buckley and one apiece from Denny and O’Sullivan helped City to a shock 4-0 win.
The quarter-finals paired the Rebel Army with Derry City at the Brandywell. The home side went ahead in the fifth minute through captain Ryan McBride and O’Sullivan equalised at the start of the second half. The game finished 1-1 and a replay was scheduled for the following Monday night at Turner’s Cross.
City won 3-0 at home; with Ross Gaynor, Buckley, and John O’Flynn all scoring. The replay is best remembered for the performance of Liam Miller, who set up the first goal. The midfielder took the ball from Karl Sheppard, beat two players, and set it to Buckley. He laid it into Gaynor’s path and he drove the ball into the top right corner of the Shed End.
The semi-final was played on a grey Sunday afternoon in early October. It was a tense affair, with chances minimal in the first half. City’s best opening came from a Miller corner that Darren Dennehy failed to guide in. Bray countered through Ryan McEvoy and Adam Wixted, and this led to Mark McNulty saving a shot from Adam Hanlon.
Morrisey had a number of opportunities to score but he couldn’t get the right connection when it mattered. The forward collected one ball over the top and this ended up in Peter Cherrie’s hands, he also headed a corner wide.
With 30 minutes on the clock, Billy Dennehy set up Gaynor and his attempt was blocked by the Bray goalkeeper’s foot. The rebound went to Sheppard, who danced into space and fired narrowly wide.
Bray nearly scored against the run of play when Chris Lyons squared to McEvoy, but he sent this over the bar.
Just before the break, Dennehy combined with Sheppard and he sent the ball to Morrissey. His neat finish was cancelled out as Sheppard was ruled to be offside in the build-up.
Caulfield’s team dominated the game and they continued to create chances, with Morrissey and Buckley both getting opportunities.
With exactly an hour played, Buckley flicked a long ball to Morrisey. He charged forward, outmuscled Alan McNally, and slotted in to the bottom left corner. That was the striker’s last involvement as he injured himself while scoring, and he was replaced by O'Flynn.
Caulfield’s team dug deep to see out the game, which sent them through to the FAI Cup final.
City faced Dundalk in the Presidents Cup 2016 and they beat the Lilywhites 2-0 at Turner’s Cross. It was Caulfield’s first victory over them, and this would soon be a regular occurrence. City beat Dundalk twice in the league that season, but those days were paltry when compared to what happened that November.
The two teams met once again in the FAI Cup final and a Sean Maguire goal in the last minute of extra-time gave City a 1-0 win.