Cork City FC made history as the Rebel Army captured a historic double at the Aviva Stadium, as a Kieran Sadlier penalty captured the FAI Cup the second year running. This result; the club’s second successive FAI Cup, is the first double in Cork City FC’s history, following three seasons of heartbreak to runner’s up Dundalk.
City started off the stronger of the pair, like lightning across the park, not giving Dundalk an inch. The Rebel Army almost struck lucky inside the first five minutes, as Karl Sheppard crossed it to attacking midfielder Jimmy Keohane, whose back heel was well gathered by Gary Rodgers. City pressed and poked, with Gary Buckley and Gearoid Morrissey pushing the line forward and keeping Dundalk pushed deep. Michael Duffy broke for the Lilywhites, but the ex-Celtic star’s pass to David McMillan was fumbled and the striker couldn’t pull off a full strike.
From here the game lulled, as both sides challenged end to end but neither side tested the other. A cool, calm Mark McNulty was the difference, as Dundalk grew in confidence as Patrick McEleney fired at the UCC keeper, but nothing was too vexing.
The second half was a different story as City and Dundalk swapped roles, with Dundalk keeping the ball well as City were forced back to defend their lines. Despite runs by Duffy and McEleney, Dundalk never fully penetrated the City defence, as Alan Bennett expertly manned the barricades.
City’s best chance came at the death, as a free bobbed in the air, as Alan Bennett swung in the rebound yet, despite the anarchy of the box, Tomas Vemmelund was able to clear it off his line as the referee went for the full time whistle. A nil-all draw was the score at the end of 90 minutes, so the game went into extra time (ET).
In a mixed first half both sides were conservative. A controversial free from a foul from Shane Griffin on Michael Duffy, gifted the Derry man with an inch perfect ball, which Vemmelund turned in.
City swapped things around for the second half of ET, and switched to a 4-4-2 formation, as Achille Campion and Greg Bolger were introduced. The jolt of energy proved fruitful, as Greg Boler chipped the ball onto the feet of Campion, who beat the offside trap, chested the ball down and wasted no time in burying the ball in Dundalk’s net. With the sides locked at 1-1, the Aviva Stadium erupted as both sides battled to the last moment. Penalties would decide who would walk away with the cup.
Karl Sheppard, who has been linked with a move to Dundalk in the past few weeks, stepped up first, slotting the ball past Gary Rodgers. David McMillan was the first up for the Lillywhites, successfully converting the penalty. Greg Bolger and Stephen O’Donnell were up next, both scoring for their respective clubs. Conor McCormack put the ball right down the middle, but thankfully for City Rodgers had dived far across to his left. Robbie Benson was lucky too, as his penalty just scraped under the top right of the crossbar to level it 3-3 in penalties. Pressure mounting, Steven Beattie was able to slot it into the Dundalk net. Up stepped Michael Duffy, who aimed his shot to the left of the goal, but Mark McNulty was there to cover it, answering his critics with an excellent save. Kieran Sadlier then scored City’s fifth and final penalty, taking the game away from Dundalk and bringing the FAI Cup trophy to Leeside. Final score: Cork City 1 (5) – 1 (3) Dundalk.
Cork City FC: Mark McNulty, Steven Beattie, Alan Bennett, Ryan Delaney, Shane Griffin; Jimmy Keohane (sub, 58th), Conor McCormack, Gearoid Morrissey (sub, 98th), Garry Buckley (sub, 98th), Stephen Dooley; Karl Sheppard.
Substitutes: Alan Smith, Robbie Williams, Conor McCarthy, Connor Ellis, Kieran Sadlier (sub, 58th), Greg Bolger (sub, 98th), Achille Campion (sub, 98th)
Manager: John Caulfield.
Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers, Sean Gannon, Niclas Vemmelund, Dane Massey, Brian Gartland (sub, 91st); Michael Duffy, Robbie Benson, Stephen O’Donnell, Jamie McGrath (sub, 71st), Patrick McEleney (sub, 108th); David McMillan.
Substitutes: Gabriel Sava, Shane Grimes, Chris Shields, Thomas Stewart, Sean Hoare (sub, 91st), Dylan Connolly (sub, 71st), John Mountney (sub, 108th).
Manager: Stephen Kenny.
*additional reporting by Robert O’Sullivan