League champions and FAI Cup holders City travel to Oriel Park to face Dundalk tomorrow to contest the President’s Cup, the curtain-raiser to the new League of Ireland season.
City added the FAI Cup to their league title in November but in the aftermath of that game Kenny and Caulfield
became embroiled in a bitter war of words.
A host of plotlines fuelled their feud, with City keeper Mark McNulty’s exuberant celebrations infuriating Kenny, while City striker Karl Sheppard was on the verge of joining the Lilywhites but opted to stay at Turner’s Cross.
For his part, Caulfield is now only looking to the future.
“We’ve always spoken and shaken hands and so I wouldn’t think anything will change — not from my end anyway,” he said.
“I think it’s more a media thing of a strained relationship. It’s certainly not strained from me. I manage the club here and do my best for the club.
“I think it was more, with the cup final, with what was said about McNulty, and with Sheppard, there was legs put on to that but we’ve never not spoken and I wouldn’t expect it any other way.”
Matches between these best of enemies have been blood and thunder affairs, and while tomorrow may only be the appetiser, the rivalry between the clubs makes for an intriguing affair. City have won the last two President’s Cups.
“Technically it’s a friendly but it’s still a massive match. It’s going to be a proper game. It’ll be intensive and it’ll be competitive. Both teams will be going out to win,” said Caufield.
“We have 13 from last year’s squad, from the team that won the double. They’ve brought in some new players so it’ll probably be one where both teams will have a certain amount of new players on show. It’ll be interesting to see how it affects both teams.”
In the 2017 season, City enjoyed almost total dominance in meetings with their rivals, following up a 3-0 President’s Cup win with two league wins and a draw, and then winning the FAI Cup at the Aviva
Stadium 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
There’s been change on and off the pitch at Oriel Park in the close season, however, with a consortium group backed by private equity firm Peak6 taking control of the club from Paul Brown and Andy Connolly.
On the pitch, Dundalk lost striker Dave McMillan to St Johnstone, while golazo machine Patrick McEleney has also departed.
Hungarian youngster and former Liverpool man Krisztian Adorjan — a scorer in Dundalk’s midweek win over a Brentford selection — could fill the Derryman’s shoes, while the club are close to a loan deal with Everton to take talented Irish U21 striker Sam Byrne.
Tomorrow, Kenny could put his faith in old favourite
Patrick Hoban to lead the line. It’s four years since the Galway man left Dundalk to try his luck cross-channel but if he can rekindle some of the firepower which brought 34 goals in 60 games at Dundalk, it could prove a sound bit of business.
For his part, Caulfield has brought in eight new players as City look to follow on from last year’s glory. With Seanie Maguire now part of the club’s history, and other attacking options like Stephen Dooley, Achille Campion, and Connor Ellis departed, Caulfield too has turned to a club hero of the recent past, with Graham Cummins returning to Leeside six years after he helped fire the club back into the
“Graham’s a local boy, he knows the whole city, so this is a massive opportunity for him,” says Caulfield. “He’s been in England and Scotland for a while. He was prolific in the First Division, can he do the same in Premier? We feel he can and if he does, you’re in with a great shout.”
Cummins got off the mark for the season in the Munster Senior Cup semi-final win over Waterford, and the club spent this week completing pre-season with a valuable camp in Manchester.
After last year’s blitzkrieg early season form, the Leesiders found it hard to close out the league title. Caulfield is adamant there’ll be no slowdown this year.
“I think it’s a question of whether we have the hunger and the drive to keep winning,” he said. “We hope they do and there’s a great spirit and attitude in the team in the early weeks. we can see that.
“Scoring goals will be key. Ultimately we’re hoping the players we’ve brought in will score. Let me put it this way — you won’t get away with a last third of the season like last year.”
Barry McNamee, Karl Sheppard, and Steven Beattie are doubts while City will be without Garry Buckley, who suffered an ankle injury in pre-season and is also a serious doubt for the champions’ League of Ireland opener at St Patrick’s Athletic next Friday.