Soccer

Kenny may preach otherwise, but Dundalk FC can lay down marker in this afternoon's clash with Cork City

President's Cup

Caoimhín Reilly

Reporter:

Caoimhín Reilly

Email:

caoimhin.reilly@dundalkdemocrat.ie

Kenny may preach otherwise, but Dundalk FC can lay down marker in this afternoon's clash with Cork City

Dundalk FC captain Stephen O'Donnell shakes hands with Cork City manager John Caulfield after November's FAI Cup final at the Aviva Stadium. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)

Dundalk FC and Cork City will renew acquaintances for the first time since November's controversial FAI Cup final at Oriel Park this afternoon. (KO: 2pm)

The sides meet in the season-opening President's Cup for the third year in succession with the Lilywhites seeking to end Cork's two-year winning run in the competition.

However, for the first time, John Caulfield's men enter the match as league champions having put an end to the Lilywhites' three-season title-winning streak.

The backdrop to today's encounter could not be more contentious considering the animosity that existed between the sides last term - McNulty-gate et al.

But such ill-feeling has played no part in Dundalk's preparations according to their manager, with Stephen Kenny instead preaching that his side's focus would be on themselves as opposed to their rivals.

“To be honest, it didn't really enter my head. I'm not concerned about what anyone else thinks. We're very focused on Dundalk.

“It's been a brilliant era for this club so we want to continue the success that we have had and we're very hungry to do that as we get ourselves ready for this weekend.”

The fact that their upcoming match-up takes place at 'The Home of Football', Oriel Park, is another aspect the Dubliner was keen to stress.

“The President's Cup will be a good occasion because it's in Dundalk,” Kenny said.

“It's great for supporters as, to have conceded home advantage last season was something that we shouldn't have had to do.

“It's a good game and an important one which the players will look forward to. We're not perfect yet, we're still having to work out our attacking options. Our back four looks in good nick and we look very strong in midfield, but we have to work out our attacking options.”

The Rebels very much treated past President's Cup meetings as an opportunity to lay a marker down in their ongoing supremacy battle with the Lilywhites, however, while Kenny understands this approach, it's not something that he's interested in indulging in, publically or otherwise.

Instead the Dundalk supremo considers their Premier Division opener with Bray Wanderers on Friday to be of a far greater significance.

“I understand that point-of-view (setting down a marker), but the main thing for us is to have a good week leading into the Bray game. That's the priority as it's always important to get a good start to the league.”

With skipper Stephen O'Donnell set to miss the start of the season through injury, Chris Shields and Robbie Benson look likely to be paired in midfield for the clash with Cork.

But, throughout the remainder of the pitch, the other positions are very much up for grabs and when quizzed if he would use Sunday's team selection with the Bray game in mind, Kenny remained coy.

“I'll have to think about that and make a decision.”

A subplot to the outing will see Greenore-native and Cork's 2017 double-winning Player of the Year, Conor McCormack, captain the Rebels for the first time.

He is likely to play a huge part in what is sure to be a keenly fought battle with plenty of needle. Karl Sheppard is another who can expect a hot reception following his acrimonious transfer u-turn. With Mark McNulty having failed to travel for personal reasons, former Lilywhites stopper Peter Cherrie could be between the Cork sticks.

Whether Kenny subscribes to the notion or not, this is a huge opportunity for his side to signal their intent for the campaign ahead. And, if they bring the intensity they're capable of, there's no reason why the President's Cup won't be the first trophy Dundalk reclaim in 2018.