For a player that only entered League of Ireland football on the cusp of 30, Dave Hill did pretty well to write his name into the folklore of both Cork City and Bohemians.
Having arrived from England, Hill was part of a City team that included current boss John Caulfield and which brought the club’s first ever FAI Cup in 1998 — and three years later became a double winner with Bohs.
Hill, who now works as a coach in Cork on the ETB/FAI player development programme, believes Bohemians may have missed their chance in the 1-1 draw at Dalymount Park last week and with City rescuing a replay with Kieran Sadlier’s late penalty, he feels the cup holders may have too much at the Cross tonight.
“I know (Bohs boss) Keith Long quite well because I did my Uefa B badge with him back in 2006. Keith has done a very good job up there, and they are playing his brand of football,” says Hill, who was assistant manager when City won the league in 2005.
But you could see it in the faces of some of the Bohs players after the game last week, having been so close to making the cup final, they looked very upset after the match.
“City have that bit of experience from the last three years being in the cup final.
“Bohs will leave everything out there down in Cork. But Turner’s Cross can be an intimidating place when the crowd is behind you. I think City will be too strong and have too much experience in these kinds of situations.”
While Cork are now a full-time professional outfit, Bohs have exceeded all expectations this season under Long as they work on a part-time structure.
From his own career, Hill knows the advantages in a full-time professional scenario. He carved out a career at Scunthorpe, Ipswich, and Lincoln in England before moving across the Irish Sea to City in 1995 to a part-time structure.
“When I played at City, it was amateur — the likes of John Caulfield, Pat Morley, Deccie Daly, Derek Coughlan — everyone had jobs. I was working at Top Car at Dennehy’s Cross. We all worked and then we trained two nights a week, and we’d do gym work ourselves. It was was just the way things were done.”
It brought an FAI Cup to Cork in 1998 and saw them narrowly miss out on two titles, but Hill was surplus to requirements when Dave Barry left the City hotseat.
When the City lights were extinguished, Hill joined ‘the Rod squad’ at Dalymount. “I was released by Colin Murphy at Cork City in 2000. I was 35 and I had no club, and Roddy Collins gave me a two-year professional contract at Bohs.
“The players Roddy brought in were misfits but we were all from a professional background and we just gelled.
Lads like Kevin Hunt — Kevin was like Xavi, always getting on the ball, always tidy and a very good passer.
“I was playing centre-half watching all these lads playing ball in front of me and I just though ‘this is the easy part of it, I‘m watching football all the time.’”
City boss John Caulfield knows how high the stakes are tonight. “It’s hard to imagine we’re aiming at a fourth consecutive cup final. In my won career I played in them three times in 16 years; 89, 92, and 98. We’re one game away from four finals in a row which would be incredible.
“It’s an opportunity to go to the Aviva and create more history.”
City go into the game on the back of a 0-0 draw at Shamrock Rovers, while Bohemians went down 3-1 to Waterford. Both sides made a raft of changes for those encounters.
City, who formally surrendered their league crown to Dundalk last Friday — go into the match with Steven Beattie definitely ruled out. They have injury worries over some of their key attacking players, with Karl Sheppard and Kieran Sadlier both doubts, while in defence, Alan Bennett and Aaron Barry are doubtful.
“We’re giving everyone a chance up to kick-off so we’ve just got to wait and see,” Caulfield said.
“Everyone else is okay, we’d a clean sheet last Friday and we’re buzzing after that.
“Our team didn’t become a bad over one or two weeks.
We’ve gone through a rocky patch in the last 10 days but we’re back to basics now.
Dan Casey and Daniel Kelly are both suspended for Bohemians.
More than 5,000 fans are expected at Turner’s Cross tonight, with 700 fans travelling from Dublin to support the away side, in a match which will go to extra-time and penalties if required.
City won last year’s cup final against Dundalk in a shootout and this week have practised penalties — as they always do, says Caulfield.
“We practise penalties all the time. It’s not just something we do for a cup game.
“We practise at least once a week and have been doing that for the best part of three years. It came in handy in the final last year so maybe it’ll come in handy again.”