IT'S 15 years ago this week that Cork City beat Longford Town 1-0 in the FAI Cup final at the RDS in Dublin.
It was the second time that the trophy was won by the Rebel Army and Denis Behan made history in the capital with a goal just after the break.
The victory also avenged the disappointing loss to Drogheda United in the 2005 final, a result that denied City the league and cup double.
City’s success wasn’t just an isolated event but another statement by a talented group that was eager to deliver on their promise.
This was a team that featured future legends like John O’Flynn, Neal Horgan, and Dan Murray. It was a panel of players that had won the Premier Division title in 2005 and reached the second round of the Champions League qualifiers in 2006.
But, the league title was the only national piece of silverware that they had won together. While there was a sprinkling of Munster Senior Cups, this didn’t satisfy the squad and supporter’s hunger for success.
The club’s last FAI Cup victory was in 1998 and the proceeding nine years produced just one trophy; the League of Ireland Cup.
The frustration was heightened by a late-season loss to Drogheda at United Park, a result that won the home side their first-ever Premier Division title. That carried an extra bit of meaning to everyone connected with the club over what happened in 2005 and the 2006 Setanta Sports Cup final, which saw Drogheda beat City in extra-time at Tolka Park.
The club were also looking to make amends for their lacklustre title defence in 2006. City finished six off eventual winners Shelbourne and they failed to advance in both national cup competitions. Cobh Ramblers beat them at Turner’s Cross in the second round of the League Cup and Longford Town ruined their chances of a run in the FAI Cup.
In 2007, Bohemians beat them 3-2 in the League Cup quarter-finals and Cobh got the better of them in the Munster Senior Cup. There was also heartbreak in the Setanta Sports Cup as a late goal from Aidan O’Kane sent Linfield through to the final at City’s expense.
It was in the FAI Cup where the club vented their frustrations and ultimately reasserted themselves as a team capable of delivering in the biggest moments. They proved that their title success in 2005 wasn’t a one-time thing and they were one of the all-time great League of Ireland sides.
Their campaign opened up with a 1-0 victory over First Division side Shelbourne at Tolka Park in the second round. That was followed by a 5-1 hammering of Kilkenny City at Turner’s Cross and that eased the side into the quarter-finals, where Waterford United awaited at the RSC.
After Dave Warren gave the Blues an early lead, City needed a second-half goal from Behan to draw level. They met again three days later at Turner’s Cross and a hat-trick by Behan helped City to a 4-0 win.
The team were drawn away to Bohemians at Dalymount Park in the semi-finals and two goals from Liam Kearney booked their place at the RDS.
Their cup fairy tale nearly ended two minutes into the game when Dave Mooney was brought down by Murray and Dessie Baker put the resulting free-kick slightly over the intended target.
Baker then collected a long diagonal ball from Longford captain Damien Brennan and he put this wide.
The forward then set up Daire Doyle and he forced an easy save from City goalkeeper Michael Devine.
Another Longford attempt saw Robbie Martin cross into the box and Jamie Murphy poked this towards goal, which forced a low save from Devine.
City persevered and their first meaningful chance fell to Kearney, who chipped this narrowly wide.
With an hour played, Murray sent O’Flynn down the left flank with a ball over the top. His cross was met by Behan and he drove the ball in with an excellent diving header.
He should have got a second in the 81st minute but he put a cross from Leon McSweeney narrowly wide.
City were handed another opportunity to tie up the game in the final minute of normal time and this effort from O’Flynn came off the crossbar.
Longford were then reduced to ten men after Pat Sullivan received a second yellow card for fouling McSweeney.
City held out against any late attempt to equalise by Longford and on a deary December night, the FAI Cup was coloured in red and white.
Almost two years on from their loss to Drogheda, the players won their second piece of national silverware together.