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'This year we've proven we're the better side' - Cork confident but cautious ahead of double bid

City hope to retain the FAI Cup at Dundalk’s expense on Sunday.

John Caulfield with the trophy Cork City manager John Caulfield with the Premier Division trophy. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CORK CITY HAVE grown accustomed to getting the better of Dundalk over the past two seasons, but City manager John Caulfield says his side will need to be at their very best to retain the FAI Cup at the Lilywhites’ expense in Dublin this weekend.

For the third season in a row, the SSE Airtricity League’s top two teams will face each other in the decider. The latest episode in the Cork-Dundalk rivalry will take place this Sunday afternoon at the Aviva Stadium, where kick-off is scheduled for 3.30pm.

City ended Dundalk’s three-year reign of dominance in the Premier Division earlier this month by capturing their first top-flight title since 2005. Victory this weekend would secure a first double for the club in their 33-year history.

“It’s our third year in a row playing against each other and we’ve been the two standout teams for the last number of years,” said Caulfield, who signed a new contract yesterday which will keep him at the helm at Turner’s Cross for two more years.

“In the club’s history, you don’t get an opportunity to win a league title too often, never mind have the opportunity to go for a double. The players are all focused and we know what we have to do. We’re both very experienced teams. We just know that we have to play really, really well. If we do that we have a right chance.

“This year we’ve proven we’re the better side. But at the same time, if we don’t play up to scratch we’re not going to win. Dundalk have been in great form for the last two months so we’re well aware of that.”

At the club’s FAI Cup final media event yesterday at the Cork International Hotel, Caulfield said he hopes to have a clean bill of health in his squad for Sunday’s game. Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny will issue an update from his camp when the Lilywhites face the media at Oriel Park this morning.

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Cork City and Dundalk players scuffle Cork City and Dundalk players clash during last month's 1-1 draw at Turner's Cross. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Sunday’s game will be the 10th meeting of the two sides since the beginning of last season. With seven wins, one draw and just one defeat from the previous nine encounters, the balance of power has certainly resided in Cork recently.

However, Sean Maguire’s departure at the end of July is a key consideration in the future of this rivalry. The striker, who joined City from Dundalk and hit an extra-time winner in last year’s FAI Cup final, scored seven goals in eight appearances against his former club before joining Preston North End.

The form book also favours Dundalk. While last Friday’s 1-0 victory over Bray Wanderers was Cork City’s only win in their final seven league games, Dundalk have lost just once in their last 17 competitive outings — a run that extends back to July.

When asked if his side’s recent record against Dundalk will give them a psychological advantage, Caulfield said: “If you look at last year’s cup final, we went in after they had beaten us a few weeks beforehand in a league decider. But there’s no doubt that I suppose both teams fancy themselves.

“There’s a lot of confidence within our own team, but at the same time it is a one-off game. The fact that we’ve had the upper hand this year certainly would give us a lot of confidence, there’s no doubt about that. But at the same time we know Dundalk are a confident group as well so I think it’ll be a close game.”

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Paul Dollery

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