SIX years ago, this week Cork City beat Dundalk 1-0 in the FAI Cup final and a long wait for national glory ended at Turner’s Cross.
Sean Maguire scored the all-important goal in the final second of extra-time and this was enough to bring the trophy to Leeside for the first time since 2007.
City’s victory at the Aviva Stadium also marked the first time that John Caulfield beat Dundalk to a major trophy after two years of chasing the Lilywhites.
The final was also the end of a long process that began with a 1-1 draw with St Patrick’s Athletic on the opening night of the season in 2014.
The Saints arrived in Cork as league champions, and they were humbled by a Gary Buckley goal into the St Anne’s End. The draw ended up suiting City as it lit a fire in the squad, and they went on to challenge for the Premier Division title.
It was an extraordinary story as they kept beating well experienced teams like Shamrock Rovers and St Pats.
This brought the race for the title down to a decider at Oriel Park, where Dundalk won 2-0.
The following season City finished as second best to Stephen Kenny and his Lilywhites.
They missed out on the league title by eleven points and a goal from Richie Towell in extra-time saw Dundalk get the better of City in the FAI Cup final.
City regenerated their squad in the offseason by bringing in Maguire from Dundalk, Greg Bolger and Kenny Browne from St Pats, and Steven Dooley from Derry City. Gearóid Morrissey also returned to Turner’s Cross after brief spell with Cambridge United in League Two.
The first competitive game this new squad played together was a Munster Senior Cup quarter final against Rockmount at Bishopstown.
Bolger and Maguire were handed debuts, but this was a day to forget as the Munster Senior League team won on penalties.
Their next fixture was in the Presidents Cup and Dundalk had to travel to Turner’s Cross for the annual curtain raiser. At that point in time, the best result Caulfield had over Dundalk was a draw, something he achieved twice at the tail end of the 2015 season.
City were electric that day and their performance was rewarded with goals from Gavan Holohan and Maguire.
They finally got the result they craved, and it looked like a title challenge was on the cards at Turner’s Cross.
But a European hangover saw the club fail to beat Sligo Rovers, Bohemians, and Derry City.
This allowed Dundalk to gain a slight edge in the race for the title. The Lilywhites then beat City at Oriel Park in October, and this gave them a four-point lead at the top of the table, an advantage never lost.
The heartbreak fuelled Caufield and the team’s cup final preparations. Not only were they runners up in the league, but they were at risk of becoming back-to-back bridesmaids.
They were also hoping to end an incredible run in the FAI Cup that saw memorable wins like a 5-0 thumping of Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght Stadium.
All of the tension on the day of the game nearly erupted in the form of an early Daryl Horgan goal. The chipped effort was well saved by Mark McNulty, who denied David McMillan moments later.
City slowly settled into the cup final and their first chance was on the half hour mark.
A Karl Sheppard corner found Maguire inside the area and his flicked attempted was knocked off the line by Sean Gannon.
Normal time closed out with Chiedozie Ogbene coming on for Sheppard. The winger was fresh from City’s run in the UEFA Youth League and one of his first touches saw a pass from Maguire get turned in towards the goal.
Rodgers reacted quickly and the goalkeeper stopped this with his legs.
Extra-time was a quiet affair with chances minimal. The game seemed destined for penalties until Steven Beattie launched the ball in from a throw-in and it dropped for Maguire. He turned, hit it, and the ball spun in.
City had to survive a late Dundalk free-kick but once that was dealt with, the referee blew his whistle and the club lifted the FAI Cup.
Almost everyone from Cork has a story about where they were for the game. No one felt it more than captain Alan Bennett, who was on the losing side of the final in 2005 and 2015.
It was a huge day for the Cork as it was the first time in nine years that the trophy went to the Rebel County.
The victory also acted as a springboard for further success as the club won four trophies in 2017, most notably the league and cup double.