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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 6 April, 2020

Losing FAI Cup final was unthinkable for double-winner Stephen Kenny

The Dundalk manager had lost back-to-back FAI Cup finals before yesterday, but secured another double with a 2-1 win against Cork City on Sunday.

Stephen Kenny celebrates at the final whistle of yesterday's FAI Cup final.
Stephen Kenny celebrates at the final whistle of yesterday's FAI Cup final.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

A YEAR IS a long time in football, with Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny admitting that he could not bear to think about the possibility of losing a third straight FAI Cup final against rivals Cork City yesterday afternoon.

Twelve months ago the Dubliner was speaking in the wake of a crushing penalty shoot-out defeat to the Leesiders. The loss saw John Caulfield’s men secure both the league and domestic cup, meaning Dundalk were left without either trophy for the first time since 2013.

One year later and Kenny was speaking in the aftermath of his own side’s win, meaning he was now basking in the glow of victory and Dundalk’s own opportunity to celebrate their double.

Stephen Kenny celebrates Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny celebrates winning The Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup, Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It would have been difficult to face going up the road without [the cup] to be honest,” said Kenny speaking after full-time. “I couldn’t even bear thinking about it.”

He was satisfied with his side’s display during Sunday’s 2-1 win, laying praise at the feet of his players who not only secured the Louth club’s fourth Premier Division title in five years.

But also a side which succeeded in setting a new points record by a Dundalk side while also keeping an incredible 21 clean sheets throughout their league title success this season at Oriel Park.

“It was great a feeling to win it,” the Dundalk manager explained after yesterday’s FAI Cup victory. “It was a late enough winner. We have won and lost here and when you lose, it is a lonely place.

So when you are pushing, pushing and then to unlock the door, the euphoric nature of it is really special. The players deserve huge credit. They held their nerve when things weren’t really going for us and kept pushing and in the end, won the game.”

Sean Hoare and Patrick McEleney struck either side of a Kieran Sadlier penalty at Landsdowne Road, with 30,412 spectators flocking to the national stadium to witness a much more open and expansive encounter than have previously been seen between the sides in FAI Cup finals.

Gary Rodgers celebrates Patrick McEleney scoring a goal Gary Rogers punches the air following Patrick McEleney's second-half winner at the Aviva Stadium. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“Cork make you earn everything, they don’t give you anything. They closed us down in the first half and we found it difficult to be cohesive with our passing movements. We were going for killer passes. But in the second half we were a different proposition.”

Kenny was disappointed that his side conceded a 36th-minute penalty just one minute after initially breaking the deadlock. Defender Hoare went from hero to villian in the space of 60 seconds — thumping a brilliant header into Mark McNulty’s top corner before toppling over Karl Sheppard inside the box.

It’s a cardinal sin,” Kenny said of their lapse in concentration.

“We never do that, because we understand the importance of when we score. The occasion got the better of us. You probably don’t concede that in Oriel Park.

“Players were celebrating with their family and stuff that you wouldn’t normally do. We switched off and we got punished.”

Stephen Kenny and Vinny Perth celebrate with The Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup Kenny and his assistant manager Vinny Perth celebrate at full-time. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Despite the sloppy nature of the penalty conceded by his side, manager Kenny picked out match-winner Patrick McEleney and praised his ability to steer a pinpoint header past McNulty to make it 2-1 and secure the cup with just 13 minutes left on the clock.

Patrick is not noted for his heading. But he timed his run brilliantly and he kept it on target and thankfully it went in.

“There was no space for Patrick [in the first half] and what we had to do was, when Jamie McGrath came on, he did not play as an orthodox midfielder, he floated and ended up in the number 10 position.

“And that occupied other players, so Patrick got freer, we dominated for periods and we deserved it.”

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Aaron Gallagher

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