FAI Cup Final 2017

Joe Carroll reckons tomorrow's FAI Cup final could be one of the greatest

Dundalk FC vs Cork City

Joe Carroll


Joe Carroll



Joe Carroll reckons tomorrow's FAI Cup final could be one of the greatest

Dundalk FC and Cork City during their early season league meeting at Oriel Park. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)

There have been many great rivalries over the years, Barca and Real, Cambridge and Oxford, Celtic and Rangers, New Zealand and Australia, Pat's and Cooley, Coe and Ovett, Arkle and Mill House, McEnroe and everyone, Lauda and Hunt, and Kilkenny and Tipperary. That's only ten.

Dundalk and Cork City mightn't be a match for these in terms of longevity, but it's still razor-keen and has been since the pair first snarled at each other from the opposite sides of the centre-circle a few years ago. And along the line, as well.

In their three recent league-winning seasons, Dundalk had the Leesiders as runners-up. Kenny's side surrendered the title this year, and who else but Cork to take control of it. And go back twelve months and you find that the green-and-whites also picked Dundalk's pocket, Sean Maguire's late and lucky goal giving them the FAI Cup.

And while all this has been happening, the others, the once-mighty Shamrock Rovers among them, could only look up the table, the better of them scrambling for a back door into Europe, the unfortunates, fighting for survival.

Yes, all the biggest headlines of recent times have been reserved for the clubs separated by about 200 miles, and over the next few days they'll be hogging them again, the stories underneath telling of yet another set-to, this one a third successive meeting of the sides in an FAI Cup final. The action's at The Aviva on Sunday next, and one thing Kenny and his crew can be confident about, they won't lack for support.

Had this game been scheduled for earlier in the season, the odds about Cork winning would be cramped, way beyond a working man's price. At that time Cork had Sean Maguire in their side scoring goals for fun while Stephen Kenny was trying to piece his together, the Dub having lost the services of Daryl Horgan, Andy Boyle and Ronan Finn, all of them key players in the winning seasons.

Maguire got all three when the side's met in a league game at Oriel, and while it was all going swimmingly for Cork at the time, Dundalk were struggling to defend second spot. Maguire then took his leave of Leeside, around the same time as Kenny was beginning to get a lively tune from his mix of his reliables and new recruits.

A one-time 18-point difference was reduced to single figures; and there were about three or four occasions when Cork had to put the champagne away before they could eventually celebrate their league success.

Proof that everything had changed came on the night Dundalk travelled to Turner's Cross for the final league meeting of the sides. This was one of the times Cork had the fridge stacked. It stayed that way. Dundalk had only pride to play for, but still battled to the finish and weren't undeserving of a late equaliser. This is one thing about these two sides: neither says 'after you' to the other.

There's more than pride at stake this time. Both teams have a want – Cork, the double, Dundalk, to get rid of the second-best tag. It could be one of the great Cup finals.