Cork City 1 Dundalk 0 (after extra-time)
It took almost every one of the 120 minutes played to do it, but Cork City finally have their hands on a major trophy at Dundalk’s expense thanks to Sean Maguire’s deflected effort at the back end of extra-time, writes Brendan O’Brien at the Aviva Stadium.
Penalties seemed inevitable as an entertaining game wound down and both sides failed to make the most of a variety and volume of chances, but Maguire’s strike won it for City in the most dramatic and, for Stephen Kenny’s side, cruellest of manners.
The moment Cork City fans have been waiting for as they lift the FAI Cup after a dramatic late win https://t.co/LA0meCVI7d— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) November 6, 2016
There will be no 'double double' for them now: denied by a man who played just six times for them last term and who watched this encounter last year from the stands before switching allegiance to Cork.
Steven Beattie signalled the danger with a throw-in towards Maguire who, with his back to goal, spun around before directing the shot past Gary Rogers who was left stranded by the wicked deflection off Brian Gartland’s foot.
A goal from Seán Maguire in injury time of extra time has put Cork City 1-0 up in the cup final https://t.co/iWwdRWSG9F— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) November 6, 2016
It’s a belated but welcome reward for John Caulfield’s side who lost to Dundalk on the same scoreline in this fixture 12 months ago and one which has so often played bridesmaid to the Louth side in both league and cup this last three seasons.
Dundalk’s campaign will continue via the league champions’ Europa League duties but this first FAI Cup title since 2007 sets their southern rivals up perfectly for next season when they will once again be the chief rivals to the three-in-a-row league winners.
The pageantry of these occasions kept both sides stranded in the tunnel for what seemed like an age before kick-off and, with anthems and other niceties finally out of the way, it was Dundalk who began much the brighter as the sun dipped over Dublin.
So much was said about Louth side’s weighty fixture list leading into this afternoon but the fact is that they, maybe inevitably, looked much sharper at first than City whose players were time and again caught in possession in the opening half.
It all bore shades of the last meeting between these two, at Oriel Park last month, when Dundalk set the tone and won 2-1 and here too there was the added similarity in how Gartland was nullifying the threat of Maguire up front.
In truth, the Ireland U21 international was living off scraps although it took time for Dundalk’s dominance on the ball to be translated into anything to threaten a Cork rearguard that needed little invitation to retreat towards goalkeeper Mark McNulty.
The chief worries for the league champions in that first 45 were a nasty head injury to Chris Shields and the sight of captain and midfield lynchpin Stephen O’Donnell withdrawing temporarily for treatment to an old calf injury.
Cork’s physicality was a feature of the half with skipper Greg Bolger and Alan Bennett both earning yellow cards, the former for the type of desperate rugby tackle on O’Donnell that made a fine metaphor for the manner in which City have grasped after Dundalk in recent years.
A largely uneventful affair finally began to entice after the half-hour with Cork finding a tad more fluency.
Repeated probes down the Dundalk left flank were a feature but it added up initially to nothing more than a weak and wayward Maguire header 38 minutes in.
Dundalk, just back from Europa League duties in St Petersburg, made more use of the extra space. Daryl Horgan fluffed a chip into McNulty’s hands after beating Beattie to a ball down the flank before David McMillan offered up a more potent threat.
Played into space behind the City back four by the ever-dangerous Horgan, the striker’s shot was struck low, hard and true but McNulty stood up long enough to send the effort careering a couple of feet wide of his right-hand post.
Nil-all at the break, the third quarter belonged to City.
The increasing pressure on Dundalk told in different ways, not least in the four yellows they accumulated between the end of the first period and the 65th-minute, but more alarming was the manner in which Cork threatened.
Bennett was denied the opener when his header was cleared off the line by Sean Gannon, Kevin O’Connor spiralled a free a foot over Gary Rogers’ crossbar and then the Dundalk keeper denied Gearoid Morrissey from distance and Maguire from snaffling the rebound.
If the after-effects of Dundalk’s Russian trek were an issue then they did their best to drag themselves over the line as they recovered enough pep to trade decent chances in a game that was by now lurching from end to end.
Rogers was called on yet again with only six minutes to go when diverting Chiedozie Ogbene’s crisp finish away from the rigging with his feet and Ciaran Kilduff almost nabbed it for the reigning holders when he popped a header over from close range in injury-time.
Cue the extra thirty, for the seventh time in the last 11 FAI Cup deciders.
Like the regular 90, it took time to get going and Dundalk enjoyed the better of it.
McNulty was almost lobbed inadvertently by a Horgan cross with five minutes to go and man of the match Ronan Finn sent a low burner skidding inches past the Cork post before Maguire popped up to settle the day against his former club.
Roll on next season.
Cork City: M McNulty; S Beattie, AS Bennett, K Browne, K O’Connor; G Buckley, G Bolger, G Morrissey; K Sheppard, S Maguire, S Dooley.
Subs: C Ogbene for Sheppard (78); M O’Sullivan for Bolger (96); C Healy for Morrissey (100).
Dundalk: G Rogers; S Gannon, B Gartland, A Boyle, D Massey; P McEleney, S O’Donnell, R Finn, C Shields, D Horgan; D McMillan.
Subs: J Mountney for C Shields (55); D Shiels for McEleney (78); C Kilduff for McMillan (79).
Referee: R Rogers.