By Henry O’Donovan
Cork City left Dublin Sunday night with the FAI Cup on the team bus.The close fought match against Dundalk, all square after extra time following goals from Achille Campion and Nicklas Vemmelund, saw the Leesiders secure victory in the penalty shoot-out, with Kieran Sadlier scoring the final penalty.
From the very start of the game John Caulfield’s men looked to go on the attack. Early on they won free kicks down both the left and right, but these were well dealt with by a combination of the Dundalk defence and goalkeeper Gary Rogers.
Dundalk had their first chance in the 8th minute. Robbie Benson and Jamie McGrath linked up well down the right, and Mark McNulty had to get down sharply to save the latter’s deflected shot.
City got their first clear opening four minutes later. A short corner to the feet of Stephen Dooley saw him turn and send a low cross into the box. Karl Sheppard got a flick on this at the near post, which Rogers had to react quickly to to save.
The opening 20 minutes was a tale of the two goalkeepers making saves. In the 16th minute McNulty was called upon to make another good save this time from a Michael Duffy shot. Two minutes later Rogers was required to make a top class double save. Dooley found space in the box and rifled a shot at goal which the Dundalk stopper could only parry. Sheppard followed up, hooking a shot at what appeared to be an open goal, only for Rogers to recover with an acrobatic diving save.
In this back and forth first half the next two chances fell to Dundalk. In the 23rd minute David McMillan latched on to a bouncing ball in the City penalty area and looked to loop the ball over McNulty, but the net-minder took a step back and calmly caught it. In the 29th minute Michael Duffy went on a driving run inside from the right and sent a powerful shot at goal, which McNulty did well to save.
That was it for chances in the opening half and the sides went into the interval all square.
Dundalk went on the attack immediately after the break. The got the ball into the City box where it ping ponged around before the Leesiders managed to clear.
In the 50th minute Jimmy Keohane worked some space 20 yards out, but Rogers was behind his curling effort the whole way.
City made a substitution in the 58th minute with Keohane making way for Kieran Sadlier.
Dundalk had another chance in the 64th minute. Benson got up well for a header, which McNulty got down well to save.
Dundalk retained the possession and maintained the pressure but the Leesiders’ defence held strong.
The best chance of the half fell to City right at the death. A cross from the left found the head of Sheppard at the back post and he directed the ball back across the box, where Ryan Delaney almost bundled it into the net, only for Rogers to scoop the ball out from under the bar.
Five minutes into the first half of extra time came the first goal of the game, and it went to Dundalk. Duffy’s free kick from the right found the head of Vemmelund, whose towering, powerful header gave McNulty no chance.
City pushed forward looking for the equaliser. In the 18th minute Sadlier had a shot from distance that went well wide.
The equaliser came in the 21st minute of extra time, and it came via Campion. It started with a Sheppard lobbed a ball over the top. Campion beat the offside trap, took the ball on his chest, swiveled and shot low under Rogers in one fluid, balletic motion.
City pushed for a winner, but it didn’t come, and it was on to penalties.
The first three for each side found the back of the net, with Sheppard, Bolger and McCormack scoring for Cork and McMillan, O’Donnell and Benson scoring for Dundalk.
Steven Beattie took City’s forth and made no mistake. Duffy stepped up for Dundalk, but his penalty was excellently saved by McNulty, in front of the Dundalk supporters.
This meant when Sadlier stepped up his penalty was for victory. He drove his penalty into the bottom left corner, giving Rogers no chance and giving City the FAI Cup.
A fourth FAI Cup, and the the Leesiders’ first ever league and cup double. It’s also the first double by any Cork team since 1951.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.