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'They're flying high on confidence so it's a massive game for us'

Alan Bennett expects “a full-blooded Cork City performance” in Sunday’s FAI Cup semi-final against Bohs.

Alan Bennett shows off the FAI Cup at Cork City's homecoming after last year's FAI Cup final.
Alan Bennett shows off the FAI Cup at Cork City's homecoming after last year's FAI Cup final.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

IT HAS BEEN a miserable few weeks for everyone at Cork City, but veteran defender Alan Bennett has found the club’s recent struggles particularly difficult to endure.

A defensive linchpin for much of last season when he captained City to a Premier Division and FAI Cup double, Bennett has been restricted to a watching brief for the majority of 2018.

The emergence of young prospects like Sean McLoughlin and Conor McCarthy, as well as the summer signing of Damien Delaney, have seen Bennett’s opportunities reduced significantly.

While the twice-capped Ireland international has been ever-present in their march to the FAI Cup semi-finals, he hasn’t started a league game since early July.

“It’s been frustrating,” says Bennett, who turns 37 next week. “No matter where you are in your career as a professional footballer, everyone wants to play, no matter how old you are. From [age] 17 to 37, everyone just wants to play, especially at our level.

“If you don’t play you’ll come out of the squad and you could find yourself out of contract at the end of the year. It’s different if you’re earning massive money, whereas it’s quite a challenge for us. I’ve been training hard, putting my hand up when team selections are being made, and I just hope that I’m back in the team soon.”

Bennett observed from the sidelines as Cork City’s Premier Division title defence faded with a run that has seen them take just a single point from their last four outings, allowing champions-elect Dundalk to capitalise.

“We’ve struggled for a bit of form, I suppose. A bit of continuity, maybe,” he says ahead of the FAI Cup semi-final against Bohemians. “We have a massive game on Sunday. Our cup pedigree over the last few years has been excellent. To maintain that level in the league is a real challenge. We just fell short of it this year.”

Gearoid Morrissey and Jimmy Keohane dejected after conceding their sides third goal Cork City lost 4-2 to Bohemians at Dalymount Park earlier this month. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

In spite of their disappointing season, Bennett insists that City can still salvage it with FAI Cup success. Having been on the losing side in the 2005 and 2015 finals, he’s hoping for a third consecutive triumph at the Aviva Stadium in November.

“When I came back in 2015, all I wanted was an attempt at a cup because of what had happened in 2005. I was delighted to win one in 2016 and 2017 was just amazing. If we could get an opportunity to put 2018 on the back of that, starting with the game on Sunday, it would be absolutely amazing.”

To set up a meeting with Dundalk or UCD in the decider, City will be aiming for the right result on Sunday at Dalymount Park against a Bohs side who are bidding for a 10th win on the trot. One of those victories was a 4-2 trouncing of John Caulfield’s side a fortnight ago.

Bennett: “I suppose overnight people are giving them attention because of the run they’ve put together, but you could see it for the last three or four years with the job Keith Long is doing and with what is being put in place at the club.

“They have a fantastic group of young lads who are hungry and ambitious. Our recent game up there didn’t go that well so it’ll be a challenge for us.”

He adds: “We’ll go up there to try and win the game, to get back to what we’re good at doing. We’ve got to refocus minds. The lines maybe got a bit blurry recently about what we’re actually good at. I think it’ll be a full-blooded Cork City performance on Sunday.”

Bennett also confirmed that he intends to continue playing into 2019: “I’m in contract for another year so my plan at the moment still is to be here for next year. Hopefully we’ll wrap up this year on a high note.”

2018 FAI Cup semi-finals

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