STEPHEN KENNY has predicted another tight afternoon in the FAI Cup final on Sunday (3.30) as he predicts that Cork City will, again, try and “stifle” his Dundalk side.
And he has also hit back at claims by counterpart John Caulfield that Dundalk were “monopolising the Dublin market” when it comes to signing players.
“We actually have more players from the west of Ireland than we have from Dublin, the west of Ireland is a great market for us,” Kenny said in response to Caulfield.
“We don’t have many Dubs, four or five. We’ve not signed any players from the top two clubs, Cork City or Shamrock Rovers, we have all young Irish players who want to get better, that’s really it. Young Irish players who want to get better.”
For the fourth season in-a-row, Cork and Dundalk meet in the Cup final, Cork aiming for a third successive trophy success while Dundalk chase the double.
Fans of the two clubs enjoy the battle but neutrals have not exactly been spoiled by goals, just four goals scored in the last three finals, last year’s final a 1-1 draw which was settled on penalties.
The tight nature of those finals, and the presence of the same two outfits yet again, has dimmed interest in the final among the wider public and Kenny admits there is “fatigue” when it comes to the fixture.
But he has made a point by suggesting that his side come into the tie to win it while Cork try to counter that, comments which will be heard and read in the Cork camp.
“I understand the fatigue. I was in two finals with Derry. We drew 2-2 and lost on penalties in 2008 and two years earlier had won 4-3 against St Pat’s, 11 goals in two matches,” says Kenny.
“These three matches haven’t been absolute thrillers.
“We’ve set out to play. They (Cork) have had a game-plan to sort of stifle and try and keep it tight.
“They’ve all been a bit different obviously but certainly there hasn’t been the goals scored or the two-all or three-all draws that people like to see in a final. So I can understand that to a degree.
“But in other ways it’s been quite fascinating. These things are never easy to predict. People going into Sunday would be saying ‘well you wouldn’t know what way it will go’.
“It’s unpredictable because of the nature of it. People love sport and two teams really going at it with a view to trying to win the cup and bring it home. That has its own intrigue,” added Kenny.
The Dundalk boss is an old hand when it comes to Cup finals: his first taste of the Cup final experience was way back in 2001, with Longford Town so he understands all that comes with Cup final week, especially injuries and how he has to make a call on the fitness of top scorer Patrick Hoban.
The Galway native limped out of Dalymount Park on crutches after a 1-1 draw with Bohemians on the last day of the league season, having suffered an ankle injury.
Kenny knows that Hoban has not yet played at the Aviva Stadium and is eager to change that, but Kenny also understands that a player keen to play in a final is not always the best judge of his fitness.
“In my experience of cup finals, players can often pull through whether they were right or not. But you can’t be sentimental about these things, you have to base your decisions on good medical judgement and your own instincts,” he says.
“Pat hasn’t trained the last few days. He just came down heavily on his ankle. We’ll make a decision later in the week. Hopefully he’ll make it.”
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