Cork City beat Dundalk in penalty shoot-out to win FAI Cup

Cork City players celebrate their FAI Cup final victory over Dundalk Picture by Sportsfile
Cork City players celebrate their FAI Cup final victory over Dundalk Picture by Sportsfile

FAI Cup final: Dundalk 1 Cork City 1 (After extra-time, Cork City win 5-4 on penalties)

CORK City’s hero of the hour Mark McNulty is a name that won’t be forgotten in Dundalk for a long, long time.

Accused of “gutter” behaviour by Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny in the build-up to yesterday’s nail-biting FAI Cup final for engaging in anti-Dundalk chants, captured on social media after last month’s league title triumph, the Cork City goalkeeper had the last laugh.

Crucially, the 37-year-old ‘keeper saved Michael Duffy’s penalty in a dramatic shoot-out – and up stepped substitute Kieran Sadlier to convert Cork’s fifth and final spot-kick to complete the club’s first-ever league and cup double.

Just like last year, when Sean Maguire’s extra-time winner broke Dundalk hearts, Cork emerged victorious again to retain the coveted silverware.

It was rough justice on the Lilywhites who had bossed the vast majority of yesterday’s decider.

The cup final script seemed written for Danish centre-back Niclas Vemmelund, playing his last game for the Oriel Park club, who powered home an unstoppable header from Duffy’s free-kick to put Dundalk ahead five minutes into extra-time.

But there was one final twist in the tale when Cork substitute Achille Campion latched onto Karl Sheppard’s looped pass to level the tie with a fine left-foot strike with eight minutes of extra-time remaining.

Every spot-kick in the resultant shoot-out was impeccably despatched before McNulty in the Cork goal dived to his right to deny Duffy.

Afterwards, McNulty dismissed his anti-Dundalk chants as “banter” – but aimed a dig at the Dundalk manager for making an issue out of the social media video that went viral.

“Listen, what I said was banter,” said McNulty.

“I’m standing beside 500 Cork City fans singing. I didn’t mean to offend any Dundalk players or supporters or past players.

[But] obviously Stephen Kenny bit. I think when the pressure is on him he bites. He obviously felt the pressure this week. But from my point of view it was only a bit of banter with the crowd.”

McNulty, who has been with the Leesiders for 17 years, added: “Coming here today and getting a bit of grief from the Dundalk fans, I loved every bit of it. I turned around at the end when we won it and gave them a little smile. It’s part of football. Without fans, football wouldn’t be great sport.

“It couldn’t have worked out any better. To win the double in front of the Dundalk fans who have given me a lot of grief over the years, it’s always nice.”

And some Cork City players were only too keen to take a swipe at the media for not giving them the credit they deserved in winning a remarkable double.

John Caulfield’s men raced into an early lead during the league campaign but stuttered several times in the run-in before eventually wrestling the title away from holders Dundalk.

Hard-working midfielder Conor McCormack said: “Every pundit, every journalist, including yourselves, never gave us a chance all season. That only drives us on. It was great to shut you all up.

“Hopefully you’ll do a wee bit more research about things before you say them.

“I don’t know when was the last time Dundalk beat us – nine games ago? And nobody gave us a chance. But we’ve shut everyone up now and we’re absolutely delighted.”

Both teams struggled to stitch any decent passages of play together in a patchy opening 45 minutes of yesterday’s eagerly awaited cup decider.

But there were chances and they were shared evenly between the two best sides in the league.

McNulty had to be alert to parry away Duffy’s dangerous low drive in the eighth minute after clever approach play involving Patrick McElheney and Robbie Benson – the latter a target of SPL club St Johnstone – down Dundalk’s right flank.

Four minutes later, Cork’s target man Karl Sheppard saw his poked effort from close range saved by Gary Rogers in Dundalk’s goal.

The 26-year-old striker was unlucky not to bag his fourth goal of the competition after Rogers denied him again in the 18th minute following Stephen Dooley’s original effort that was palmed away.

Chances were few and far between in the second half but Dundalk virtually owned the ball.

Cork delivered a defensive master-class without the ball – but Dundalk midfielder and the best player on view yesterday Stephen O’Donnell said: “When you’re dominating the ball you’ve got to score a couple of goals and we didn’t.

“We didn’t create enough clear-cut chances. A big pitch like that, you need to create more chances than that.”

Despite their backs to the wall in the second half, Cork almost nicked it in stoppage-time only for a dramatic save from Dundalk ‘keeper Gary Rogers to deny Gary Buckley.

And when Vemmelund thundered home after 95 minutes, both sets of fans expected the Lilywhites to see out the game and take home the cup.

But, to Cork’s eternal credit and never-say-die spirit, they found an equaliser in the 112th minute.

Dundalk left back Dane Massey just about played Campion on-side and once the ball hit the back of Dundalk’s net momentum swung in the league champions’ favour.

“It’s a cruel way to lose,” said Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny.

“I can’t fault the players – they gave everything. We had to take two players off in extra-time – Brian Gartland and Patrick McElheney – and we could have taken one or two others off. It’s just a cruel way to lose.”

Dundalk: G Rodgers, S Gannon, D Massey, B Gartland (S Hoare 91), N Vemmelund, S O’Donnell, R Benson, M Duffy, J McGrath (D Connolly 71), D McMillan, P McElheney (J Mounteney 109); Subs not used: G Sava, C Shields, S Grimes, T Stewart

Cork City: M McNulty, S Beattie, A Bennett, R Delaney, Griffin, J Keohane (K Sadlier 58), C McCormack, S Dooley, G Morrissey (G Bolger 98), K Sheppard, G Buckley (A Campion 98)

Subs not used: M McNulty, C Ellis, C McCarthy, R Williams

Referee: Paddy McLaughlin