IT was Patrick’s Day in November at Lansdowne Road as a second half goal, a rare one with his head, from Patrick McEleney earned Dundalk an FAI Cup success and completed the double for Stephen Kenny’s side.
Derry lad McEleney had a bad start to 2018, with a brief and ill-fated spell with Oldham Athletic and within months he was back in Ireland and back at Oriel Park.
But he edged towards hero status among the Dundalk support as his headed goal on 73 minutes, from a superb cross by defender Sean Gannon, won the day for Dundalk in a very tight Cup final.
A crowd of 30,412, the biggest Cup final attendance at the Dublin 4 venue since the 2010 decider, felt (or feared) the tie was headed for extra time once again as the sides were level from midway through the first half, but McEleney’s finish would be enough for Dundalk.
In their previous three meetings in the final, the two sides has played out 90 minutes on each occasion without a single goal, all the action coming in extra time or in a penalty shoot out.
The 2018 final had two goals in the first half, in the space of a minute, Sean Hoare a key figure in both incidents. In the 19th minute, Hoare did well to rise above his markers and get his head to Michael Duffy’s corner kick to head home, only his third goal of the season.
Cork had a response almost immediately as they were level seconds later. Karl Sheppard bore down on the Dundalk goal and when he clashed with Hoare in the box, the outcome was a penalty which Kieran Sadlier converted.
Dundalk almost had another goal a minute later but Shane Griffin was well placed on the goal line to keep out a headed effort by Brian Gartland.
The quickfire response was typical of a game which had a real edge, tackles flying in from the early stages, the first clash on 10 minutes when Chris Shields went on on Garry Buckley while Cork defender Conor McCarthy was the first man to be booked, for dragging back Duffy.
Dundalk always looked more likely to score, McNulty saving a Robbie Benson header on 58 minutes while a slip by Alan Bennett gifted a chance to Pat Hoban on 69 minutes but McNulty saved again. Minutes later Dundalk had the lead again through McEleney.
Cork boss John Caulfield threw Graham Cummins on for the last 14 minutes but the closest City came to a second equaliser was an injury time deflected shot from Sadlier which forced a save from Gary Rogers while seconds later City needed a save from McNulty to prevent Duffy from scoring again and Dundalk will feel this was a most deserved double as Cork finish without a trophy for the first time in three years.
CORK: McNulty, McCarthy, Bennett, McLoughlin, Griffin, McCormack (Murphy 85), Morrissey (McNamee 68), Keohane (Cummins 76), Buckley, Sadlier, Sheppard.
DUNDALK: Rogers, Gannon (Cleary 85), Gartland, Hoare, Massey, Shields, Mountney (McGrath 58), McEleney, Benson (Jarvis 89), Duffy, Hoban.
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