If Cork City players feel pressure going into Sunday’s FAI Cup final, it will be of the welcome kind: The sensation of the hand of history on their shoulders as, with the league title already in the bag, they go in search of the club’s first ever double.
“We drew with Dundalk a couple of weeks ago and it was kind of a make or break game,” Gearóid Morrissey observes.
“If we won, we won the league and if we lost, it was opened up again. We drew and after that game I felt massive relief.
“And it was similar when we drew with Derry to win the league. It was more pressure off the shoulders again.
“We’re in a great frame of mind — a professional mind, a confident mind, a determined one.
“I wouldn’t say there is no pressure because, no matter what, there is pressure. It’s a perfect balance of all those aspects. We’re in a great space compared to where we have been after certain games, like when we lost in Limerick.”
But, the midfielder stresses, success brings its own challenges too.
“It could work against you where you go ‘the pressure has been lifted’ and you get complacent. You need to work on it and actively do so because it doesn’t just happen.
"You need to make sure you’re in the right space where you’re not complacent, cocky or over-confident — you’re professional, determined, and focused and in exactly the right space mentally to go and compete and do things. That’s the trick to be a champion and win things.”
In the extraordinary case of Cork City’s title bid this season, the mental challenge was complicated by the fact their runaway first two-thirds of the campaign had them being universally hailed as champions long before they actually crossed the finishing line.
“It was a weird one,” says Morrissey. “People around you want you to do well. It’s not their fault but they’re almost patting you on the back before you’ve done a job. It was a weird experience for a couple of weeks.
“It’s one of the aspects I mentioned where you’ve been at it for weeks and been successful and, when you have people doing that, you could get complacent and chill out. But you have to get over it as quick as possible and find that mental balance again, that tunnel vision, and drive on.
“Even creating the chance to win a league is massively difficult. It rolls off the tongue saying ‘we won the league and we’re in the cup final’ but it doesn’t do it justice, the slog that has to go into it.”
The 25-year-old Morrissey, who hails from Mahon, is a survivor of the Cork City team which achieved promotion back to the Premier Division in 2011 after the darkest period in the club’s history.
A move to Cambridge United at the end of 2014 failed to live up to his hopes and expectations but the same certainly can’t be said of how his career has panned out since his return to City one year later. Playing for your hometown club, he enthuses, is a special experience.
“You go to Turner’s Cross and you see the attendances there all season. You’re out there playing and your neighbours, friends, and family are in the stand, everyone you know. It’s a great thing to go out and put in a shift knowing they are watching and fill them with pride, as well as yourself.
“For Cork lads in general, we just love Cork. Fellas go here and there and sometimes take a chance but everyone always has it in the back of their mind of finishing up or going back to Cork at some stage. It’s a great place, the people are sound. It’s bang on.
“Last season, when we won the cup, we were on a stage on the main street and the whole city turned out. The place was black, you couldn’t move, and for a week straight we were living like kings, getting high fives left, right, and centre. I don’t know if you’d get that in Dublin. I don’t think so.”
And once players get a taste of the glory game, it only leaves them wanting more.
“Look, it doesn’t define our season, I don’t think,” he says of Sunday’s cup final. “I haven’t even thought about that yet, I’m kind of just thinking about the positives and what rewards are there if we go about things the right way and get the right result. We have a chance of creating something special and everybody wants to grasp that. If you do that it’s legendary stuff, and that’s the way I’m looking at it.”
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