The FAI Cup final might not be taking place until Sunday afternoon but the tackles are already flying off the field, with Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny, at his pre-match press conference yesterday, accusing Cork City goalkeeper Mark McNulty of a lack of class.
McNulty went viral on social media over the weekend after starting a chant of “fuck the Lilywhites’ as John Caulfield’s side paraded the league trophy at Soho Bar in Cork.
The unprompted attack on their rivals, which concluded with the words “they’re fucking shite”, is not the first time the 37-year-old has taken a dig at the Louth men, having previously referenced them in a speech at the same venue after last year’s FAI Cup final victory.
Asked about the matter yesterday, Kenny accused McNulty of a lack of respect and alleged that Cork players had goaded his captain Stephen O’Donnell with abusive phone calls following last year’s final.
Kenny said: “I think you can have rivalries. Teams don’t have to like each other, there’s nothing abnormal about that, but there has to be a sporting respect. That’s out of the gutter really.
“Not only that but ringing Stephen O’Donnell last year after the cup final when we were on the bus going back home and shouting down the phone taunting Stephen O’Donnell… Stephen is probably the most successful captain of modern times.
“He carries himself with great dignity. He has won five league titles and been in two Europa Leagues but ringing down the phone and taunting him on the phone, we had that. This wasn’t a one-off.”
The Dundalk boss said such actions not only insulted the present-day Dundalk side but all the former greats who pulled on the white jersey over the years.
“What do you associate with the Lilywhites over the years as a football fan? You associate people like Tommy McConville, Barry Kehoe; brilliant players going down through the years, Martin Lawler 18 years playing here.
“What he’s doing there is that he’s insulting all of those players in the past and the current bunch.”
Asked did McNulty’s actions lack class, Kenny said: “I would say so.”
The 46-year-old said he did not understand why Cork felt the need to do that but insisted it would be no more motivation for his side on Sunday.
“We’ve won the league here three times and we’ve won in the Aviva and we celebrated with each other.
“There’s a joy to celebrate with your families. It’s such a joyous occasion to do that so to be thinking of ringing someone to taunt them within an hour and screaming down the phone and all that, why would you even bother do that?
“To be fair, we’re motivated every year. It’s just a great feeling to go and win the trophy. I consider it a privilege as a manager to manage a team in the FAI Cup final.
“It’s more special going to the Aviva Stadium, I think, and when you win it there really is something special.”
O’Donnell had a similar message. He said: “There is needle and rivalry there but I don’t think any of it is nasty or toxic. It’s a bit of rivalry.
“It’s each to their own how they want to celebrate their achievements but I know when we win anything as a team, Cork City wouldn’t even enter our heads.
“It would just be the satisfaction of getting what you wanted to achieve.”
Cork boss Caulfield said he did not know about the incident when questioned on it yesterday on 98FM.
He told host Jamie Moore: “I haven’t seen it. I’m not involved in social media but I’m sure there’s a lot of jokes and slagging going on all the time. It’s part and parcel of the craic between the teams, I presume, but there is no harm done to anyone.”
Meanwhile, City have appointed Paul Wycherley as their new general manager.
He will guide and support the board as they move their focus to more strategic and long-term planning, while freeing them from the day-to-day operations of the club.
Wycherley said: “I’m delighted to have accepted this opportunity to work at what is a fantastic football club.
“It’s an exciting time for Cork City on the pitch, and I can assure the fans that I will bring my professionalism and drive to greater progress off the pitch too.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved