Dundalk set for ‘an epic battle’ in bid to complete double

Champions’ boss sticking to his normal game plan as his side prepare to face Cork City

The ease with which they have swept to their second consecutive league title may make it hard for the Dundalk players to fathom but completing the double has often proved an elusive assignment for other outstanding Irish clubs.

Cup finals often defy the prevailing formbook and particularly so when a team is attempting to complete the double.

Cork City may themselves take inspiration from the fact that they suffered a shock in 2005 when they beat Derry to clinch the league title but then crashed and burned against Drogheda in the cup final.

The Cork Hibs side of ’72 might get a mention in the Cork dressing room before tomorrow’s game too for having been beaten at home by Waterford, who clinched the league at Flower Lodge, Miah Dennehy’s goals a week later denied Alfie Hale and co their added entry in the history books.


Six times

Even Shamrock Rovers, who achieved the double a remarkable six times, and made a habit of it through the mid-80s when their last one of three was at the expense of Dundalk, missed out on another three due to cup final defeats.   So if Stephen Kenny is concerned about his Dundalk players getting carried away with themselves, there are enough salutary precedents from down the years for him to cite as he seeks to keep them grounded.   For John Caulfield, the challenge will be about having his players ready to seize whatever opportunity comes their way.

City's form clearly waned once it became clear the league title would once again elude them. While the manager sought, with some success in recent weeks, to address the issue, it is a while since Cork played as well as they will surely have to in order to win tomorrow.   Caulfield has some big calls to make but if Liam Miller and Colin Healy are declared fit, as both seem likely to be, then both look set to start. John Dunleavy is on course, perhaps, to keep Michael McSweeney out at right back with Garry Buckley starting in place of the cup-tied Steven Beattie.   Cork are big and strong and have players of genuine quality sprinkled through the entire team. But they have been at their most effective when getting the ball quickly forward to Karl Sheppard, Mark O'Sullivan and Billy Dennehy with the team's inability to move the ball more effectively along the ground something of a mystery given the presence of the two former internationals in key positions.

Some pace

The need for some pace in central defence looks like it will cost Alan Bennett his starting place although he could well be an option in the event that Miller, who picked up a calf strain against Bohemians last week, misses out with Dan Murray, like Dunleavy, a contender to shift forward into midfield.   For Dundalk, the talk, from some quarters, of greatness is probably a little premature.

The team have perhaps to achieve success over a more prolonged period and to cope with the changes in personnel that that inevitably entails, if they are to be ranked up there with the best sides Shamrock Rovers and Waterford have produced. Still, they look to be going the right way about it.   Kenny has calls of his own to make with his skipper Stephen O'Donnell needing to prove his fitness in training today if he is to displace Chris Shields alongside Richie Towell in midfield.

The manager must also decide whether to go with John Mountney or Darren Meenan on the right side of his attack; Mountney is expected to narrowly edge that one.  City, the story goes, were a little too confident they would build on beating his Derry side a decade ago but Kenny insists his players won't make the same mistake. "We look to dominate games with the way we play and that won't change on Sunday," he says. "We believe in ourselves but we know all about Cork. We know we have to earn the right to win. It should be an epic battle."

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times