For Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny and midfielder Ruaidhri Higgins, Friday night’s league decider will undoubtedly bring back painful memories of the finale to the 2005 League of Ireland season.
Like this year’s edition, that campaign was decided in a shoot-out between the top two on the final day of the season. Kenny and Higgins, then representing Derry City, missed out on the title. The champions? Inevitably, Cork City.
The scenario back then was eerily similar to the present day. For Cork City 2005, read Dundalk 2014. The Leesiders went into the final game of the season a point adrift of the league leaders who they welcomed to Turner’s Cross on November 18, 2005.
Like Dundalk, Cork City knew that only a win would give them the title and, roared on by a packed venue, they got it as goals from John O’Flynn and Liam Kearney gave the Rebels their second League of Ireland title and condemned Kenny and Higgins to the runners-up spot.
It’s doubtful that the duo would ever have imagined themselves hoping for a repeat of that night, but come this Friday they will be hoping for a comparable outcome and the chasing team end up crowned champions.
“We’re in a similar situation now that Cork City were in back in 2005,” said Higgins. “They were a point behind, with home advantage, and they went on to win it. The fact that the home team, the team who went into the game playing catch-up, went on to win the title is a good omen for this Friday.”
The following season also saw Derry City involved on the final day. The Candystripes and Shelbourne were locked on 59 points going into the last series of games; Derry at home to Cork City and Shels hosting Bohemians at Tolka Park.
It looked good for Kenny and Higgins early on as the Candystripes led 1-0 with Bohemians also taking the lead in Dublin. However, goals from Stuart Byrne - who launched a verbal attack on Kenny on live television after the game - and Glen Crowe gave Shels a 2-1 victory, landing them the title on goal difference.
“I’ve had nights like that in but I’ve also won the title in a league decider aswell when Bohemians beat Shelbourne in 2001.
“I’ve experienced both sides of it and I believe we’re well capable of beating anybody, home or away, on our day so we’ll be ready for Cork City,” said Kenny.