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Dublin: 6°C Wednesday 21 April 2021

'If I don't stay in Cork, I won't be signing for another League of Ireland team'

Cork City fan-favourite Steven Beattie isn’t looking beyond Sunday’s FAI Cup final against Dundalk.

Updated at 17.26

Steven Beattie celebrates with The Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup Steven Beattie holds the FAI Cup aloft after Cork City's win against Dundalk in last year's final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

STEVEN BEATTIE WILL aim to win an FAI Cup medal for the third year in a row on Sunday, but the versatile Cork City player thought his prospects of featuring in another final had ended just a few weeks ago.

An injury forced him off in the second half of the 1-1 draw with Bohemians in the semi-final. While his team-mates were booking their place in the decider for the fourth consecutive season with a 2-1 victory in the replay, Beattie was coming to terms with the early stages of rehabilitation from a grade-two hamstring tear.

His chances of playing again this season initially appeared slim. However, after immersing himself in the recovery process, the 30-year-old played the majority of Friday’s game against Bray Wanderers, as City closed out their Premier Division campaign with a 5-1 win. 

“When the injury originally happened I thought I was gone,” he says. “Obviously you don’t allow yourself to get dragged down and you tell yourself there’s always going to be a chance, but I was up against it.

“Then, as the weeks progressed, I was getting there. We have great physios and medical staff down here who looked after me from the start. I ended up being two weeks ahead of schedule. Friday was a bonus. I didn’t think I’d get that hour under the belt so it was great.”

Since joining Cork City from Sligo Rovers in July 2015, Beattie has won one Premier Division title, two FAI Cups and three President’s Cups. But his most impressive achievement may have been the success he’s had in defying his Dublin roots to become a fan-favourite among the notoriously parochial locals on Leeside.

“It’s never easy to come down here from Dublin and be accepted,” laughs the Skerries native. “But honestly, the fans have been absolutely unbelievable to me. I’ve loved every second down here.”

Steven Beattie Cork City's Steven Beattie pictured yesterday at Turner's Cross. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Having already relinquished their Premier Division crown to Dundalk, Cork City are determined to ensure that the FAI Cup remains in the south. John Caulfield’s side finished second to the Lilywhites in the league this season, with the clubs set to renew their rivalry at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

“As players, you set your standards high,” says Beattie. “Down here, you’re expected to win every game — that’s from fans and players. There’s an added pressure down here and you’re in the wrong place if you can’t handle it.

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“It has 100% been a disappointing season. Not just the league campaign either, but Europe too. We didn’t score a goal. I think our season just dwindled out. We had a period of a few weeks where we dropped points against Sligo and Pat’s.

“In fairness to Dundalk — credit where credit is due — they were just churning out results, win after win. We couldn’t keep pace with it. That’s all on the players, not the management. They can put whatever 11 players out there, but at the end of the day we then have to go and deliver on the pitch. We didn’t do that, but we have a chance to put it right on Sunday. Three in a row for Cork City would be absolutely special.”

Success this weekend will allow Cork City to finish the season with something positive, although Beattie insists that it won’t erase the disappointment of failing to retain the league title the club won last year for the first time since 2005.

“If you paper over cracks, especially in the off-season, you’re setting yourself up for trouble for the following season,” he said. “The management know as well as the players that collectively we weren’t good enough. With players coming and going both ways, I’m sure that’ll be sorted. It’s very important for the boys to start strong next season.”

Michael Duffy with Steven Beattie Beattie tangling with Dundalk's Michael Duffy earlier this season. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Speaking at Cork City’s pre-match press conference, Beattie was reluctant to be drawn on his future. When he signed a one-year contract extension at the end of last season, the tenacious right-back admitted that there was interest in his services from across the Atlantic.

After graduating from North Kentucky University, he was drafted by Toronto FC and had a brief stint with the MLS club. A spell with Puerto Rico Islanders in the NASL was cut short by injury, but Beattie has often been linked with a return to the USA in recent years. 

“We’ll see,” he said, when asked if he’ll be a Cork City player in 2019. “I’m just looking forward to playing on Sunday and trying to deliver one more trophy to Cork. If I don’t stay in Cork, I won’t be signing for another League of Ireland team. 

“I just want to enjoy the occasion on Sunday. If it is to be my last game for the club, I want to finish on a high.”

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Paul Dollery

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