Niall Newberry reports from the Aviva Stadium
Dundalk completed an historic double as they lifted the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup trophy for the 11th time in their history with a 2-1 win over Cork City at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.
Not content with winning a fourth league championship in five seasons last month, the all-conquering Lilywhites have now added a second FAI Cup of the Stephen Kenny era.
Beaten in the previous two finals, Kenny’s side were determined to set the record straight in this year’s showpiece and headers from both Seán Hoare and Patrick McEleney sealed the double.
Cork were a dealt a huge blow after Steven Beattie failed a late fitness test prior to kick-off, meaning Conor McCarthy had to slot in the right-back position while striker Graham Cummins was dropped.
Most of Dundalk’s pre-match talk revolved around whether Patrick Hoban, who’s scored 32 goals this season, would pass his fitness test but the Loughrea native took his place in the starting XI.
In what was a cracking atmosphere at the Aviva, this cup final between the two undisputed best sides in the country had an explosive start and John Mountney flashed a header wide early on.
The Lilywhites took the lead inside the first 20 minutes when Michael Duffy’s corner was powered home by the head of Hoare, who’s had a remarkable season at the heart of Dundalk’s defence.
Hoare quickly turned from hero to villain shortly afterwards however, when he clumsily fouled Karl Sheppard in the box with the Dundalk crowd still celebrating his goal at the other end.
Kieran Sadlier, Cork’s leading light this year, stepped up to take the spot and he expertly dispatched it despite Gary Rogers guessing correctly as Dundalk’s advantage lasted just three minutes.
In what was a frantic period of this match, Dundalk almost regained their lead a minute later when from another corner, Brian Gartland saw his header excellently cleared off the line by Shane Griffin.
The rest of the first-half was a cagey affair after that, but Cork came close to scoring again when Garry Buckley volleyed at Rogers who saved, rather unconvincingly, as the sides remained level.
The second period took a while to get going as well before Robbie Benson’s glancing header forced Mark McNulty into an error but, luckily for the Leesiders, Sean McLoughlin was on hand to clear.
Kenny’s side were well and truly on top at this point and Dane Massey fired an effort which sailed just over the bar from distance before Hoban, from a tight angle, forced McNulty into a save.
Dundalk deservedly regained the lead with just over 15 minutes remaining after substitute Jamie McGrath retrieved the ball in a dangerous position before finding Sean Gannon out on the right.
Gannon then sent a pinpoint cross into the path of McEleney, who diverted the ball home via a poor attempted save from McNulty, sending the travelling Dundalk contingent into raptures.
Sadlier had a late chance to take the final into extra-time for the fourth year running, but his spectacular long-range effort produced a phenomenal save from Rogers as Dundalk held on.
Dundalk now bring the FAI Cup back to the border town to take its place alongside the coveted League of Ireland trophy, capping off what has been a record-breaking year for the Oriel Park outfit.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Conor McCarthy, Sean McLoughlin, Alan Bennett, Shane Griffin; Garry Buckley, Conor McCormack (Cian Murphy 85), Gearoid Morrissey (Barry McNamee 68); Jimmy Keohane (Graham Cummins 75), Karl Sheppard, Kieran Sadlier.
Subs not used: Peter Cherrie (gk), Aaron Barry, Damien Delaney, Ronan Coughlan.
Booked: Conor McCarthy (33), Alan Bennett (82).
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon (Daniel Cleary 86), Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson (Dean Jarvis 90); John Mountney (Jamie McGrath 58), Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban.
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), Dylan Connolly, Ronan Murray, Georgie Kelly.
Booked: Chris Shields (34), Brian Gartland (90+5).
Referee: Neil Doyle
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Patrick McEleney (Dundalk).