By Liam Mackey
What a difference a year makes.
But not always in a good way, as Cork City manager John Caulfield made clear in his succinct summing up of yesterday’s FAI Cup final.
“Congratulations to Dundalk,” he said. “We were double winners last year. They’re double winners this year. It’s disappointing, we wish we could have won the cup three times in a row, but you have to shake hands and take it and move on.”
From Caulfield’s perspective, the most disappointing aspect of what he felt was “an even match” was Cork’s role in their own downfall.
“The first goal was a set-piece, a corner kick, a free header, and we don’t normally give those away,” he said. “Then we got punished for a mistake in the second half in a period when the game had opened up. We were punished for it and that was the difference. But I keep saying, you ask a team to perform on the day and give everything they have and if they do that you can’t ask for any more.”
Caulfield had special words of praise for full-back Shane Griffin whose mistake in losing possession to Jamie McGrath led indirectly to Dundalk’s winning goal.
“He’s disappointed but Shane Griffin is a phenomenal player,” he said. “He came into the team last year and he won a double. I thought he was very good, he’d been playing really, really well. But these things happen. On another day, you make a mistake and someone covers you. But we were open at that particular time and, to be fair to him, (Patrick) McEleney finished. But Shane Griffin is a fantastic player.”
Asked how he and Cork will respond to a season which has now ended in double disappointment, Caulfield said: “I don’t lick my wounds for a start. I’m in an incredibly privileged job which I love every minute of. But I also understand how difficult it is.
“Now, we’ll have to build a new team. Financially, we’re not in a position to give long-term contracts. No problem, I understand the whole scenario and I’m not moaning. So over the next couple of weeks I’ll be hoping to bring in a few players. But it’s getting players who can enhance what we have, that’s always the challenge. Most of the guys out of contract are leaving, possibly one or two may stay on, but a number of them are moving on. They’ve got better offers.”
Among the half dozen or so who might be on the way out is Kieran Sadlier, who confirmed after yesterday’s game that there is interest in him from a number of clubs in Ireland and England. However, he insisted he has yet to make up his mind about his future.
“It’s not really something I’ve talked about,” he said. “I just wanted to play this game today and play well. And I wanted to win it obviously. It’s something I’ll discuss with my family and my agent and decide then. It’s not just a footballing thing, it’s everything, off the pitch as well.
“But I do love Cork and I love this team. I’ve loved my time here and if that continues, well, great. If not, we’ll see what happens, I don’t know yet. But Cork will always be strong, it’s always an attractive place to play football.”
Sadlier’s penalty at the Aviva meant he joined an elite group of players in Irish football who have scored in every round of the cup. But, needless to say, the accolade felt much more like a consolation prize as he watched Dundalk lift the glittering prize.
“It’s obviously a nice personal record but I’d rather have another winner’s medal,” he said.
Meanwhile, veteran defender Alan Bennett insisted that, even with changed personnel, City will bounce back next season.
“There will be no question of that, It’s the culture of our club,” he said. “It’s up to us to come back stronger next year. I will speak to John but I am contracted for next season. That’s the nature of the game: People will move on, people will come in.
“But it’s important we get going as quick as possible.”