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Cork Independent

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City dare to double dream...

Wednesday, 1st November, 2017 4:37pm

Last weekend they were crowned champions of Ireland and Cork City will travel to Dublin this week hoping to win the FAI Cup at the Aviva Stadium.

A stuttering finish to the SSE Airitricity League campaign has seen Dundalk’s odds fall considerably and bookies have them as favourites to win; revenge perhaps for their own double dreams being ruined last year by their Cork opponents.

The significance of Sunday's tie has not passed over the head of manager John Caulfield: “It's fantastic. We said from the start of the year that after last year's cup final win, which was significant, that it would give the team belief and confidence going in to the new season and we always felt that this year we would be very close to the league, and so it proved, so the cup has come on the back of that.

“On Sunday we're up against Dundalk, it's our third year in a row playing each other. We've been the two stand out teams over the last number of years so it's gives us an opportunity. We don't get opportunities to win league titles too often, never mind have the opportunity to go for the double, so the players are all focused and we know what we have to do.

“We're both very experienced teams, so we know that we've to play really reall well and we'll do that. This year we've proved we're the better side, but at the same time, if we don't play up to scratch, we're not going to win. Dundalk have been in great form for the last two months - we're well aware of all that,” he said.

City's dip in form, or at least the blame for it, began with the departure of Seanie Maguire and Kevin O'Connor to Preston North End in July which was always going to have a knock-on affect given the duo's form. However, Caulfied is quick to point out that both had departed before City's cup campaign began.

“Obviously since the lads left in July, we played all our cup games without them, and it's great for the club and our supporters. We're back in the Aviva for the third year in a row and we're going in there as league champions so we're looking forward to it.”

Speculation has been rife in recent weeks about departing players but the club has confirmed the resignings of Gearoid Morrissey, Conor McCormack and Jimmy Keohane in recent weeks.

Transfer news, this week, is the least of Caulfield's concerns he says. “With the environment that we have here, with the supporter base, with our facilities, with the coverage we get, we'd be disappointed if players didn't want to stay at the club. They can see the work that's gone on behind the scenes, the whole, as I call it 'Cork City environment', so yes, it's good.

“This is cup final week, all my energy and focus is on this game. We expect changes, we've said all along there would be. It is going to be an overhaul and a change, but I still believe the majority of our players will be here next year. They know they can create history for themselves, and as a group, they're very tight knit,” says Caulfield.

Longterm injuries aside, Caulfield is hopeful of a clean bill of health for Sunday's showdown.

“There's a few knocks but everyone is saying they're fit, 'cause it's cup final week and everyone wants to be there. We had a few knocks come out of the other night (Friday's league concluder against Bray Wanderers). Obviously Alan Bennett had a knock, Steven Beattie didn't start, Garry Buckley and Gearoid Morrissey didn't start. They were all carrying knocks, so it's a tricky situation so we decided to rest some of them to give them more time but the fact the game is on Sunday gives us a few extra days and all the players are putting their hand up and saying to me they're fine.”

As for the starting 11?

“At the end of the day, you don't have to be a genius to work out the team,” says Caulfield.

“You could probably say there's eight of the 11 that you'd know and there's a couple of areas and a couple of situations that we're looking at just in case anyone has a knock, so do I have my starting team in my head? I suppose I have most of it but there's always be one or two you'd be playing around with.”

Despite City's dip and Dundalk's run of form, Caulfield is confident that the league win, and the cup wins so far will help his side on Sunday.

“There's no doubt that both teams fancy themselves, there's a lot of confidence in our own team, but at the same time it is a one off and the fact that we've had the upper hand this year would certainly give us a lot of confidence. At the same time Dundalk are a confident group as well so I think it'll be a close game.”

Not only is Sunday the chance to secure the double this season but there's also another double on offer as Cork City Women's FC are also in FAI Cup Final action against UCD Waves. Kick-off in the Aviva Stadium in that game is at 12pm while kick-off in the men's final is at 3.30pm.

Meanwhile it was also confirmed this week that Caulfield had signed a new two year contract to stay on as manager of the club.

Commenting on the news, Pat Lyons, Chairman of FORAS and Cork City FC, said: “Having won the league, and with a chance at winning a double next weekend in the Aviva Stadium, is fantastic for the club. That is where we want to be, and we believe that both John and the club share the same ambitions for this club, that is to say, challenging at the top in Ireland and competing on the European stage also. John also understands and shares the FORAS ethos.

“In addition to the success we have enjoyed at first team level, John has done a huge amount of work on the footballing structure of the club and worked closely with our underage set-up. We believe all of this will make this club better and stronger in the future, and we look forward to continuing to work with John over the next two years to bring that hard work to fruition,” he said.

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