Kenny ‘priv­i­leged’ to catch an­other spe­cial mo­ment

There’s some­thing about a cup fi­nal that is really eu­phoric in that in­stant’

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Em­met Mal­one Soc­cer Cor­re­spon­dent, at the Aviva Sta­dium

Not all of the Dun­dalk fans had stuck around long enough af­ter their side had been pre­sented with the FAI Cup for the 11th time to hear Stephen Kenny be­ing in­ter­viewed some­where in the smoky haze that had en­veloped the pitch at the Aviva sta­dium but those who did will re­mem­ber it.

Be­tween the cham­pagne soak­ings in­flicted upon him by Pat Hoban, Kenny seemed to be strug­gling to con­tain the emo­tion of it all. The man­ager was gra­cious about a City side that had put it up to Dun­dalk again, de­scrib­ing them as “bril­liant” op­po­nents but he be­came far more em­phatic as he talked about his own play­ers.

The Dubliner seemed gen­uinely ex­as­per­ated by the ca­pac­ity of Pat McEleney to make the sort of im­pact he had in this FAI Cup fi­nal by scor­ing the win­ner. Af­ter that, he just seemed lost in the mo­ment and the de­light of Dun­dalk fans be­hind him was all too clear as, al­most hoarse, and out of com­pli­ments to pay, he sim­ply chanted “C’mon the Town! C’mon the Town!” be­fore mak­ing for the far stand and his side’s dress­ing room where more chaos in­evitably awaited.

Later, he would ad­mit that the out­pour­ing of joy had, in part, been prompted by the sense of re­lief he felt at win­ning here for the first time since 2015. “The at­mos­phere in the sta­dium to­day was really in­cred­i­ble,” he said, “more than in the other three years (at 30,412, the at­ten­dance was cer­tainly sig­nif­i­cantly up), and the crowd seem to en­gage with it more.

Dif­fi­cult

“But it’s a lonely place to be when you lose; it would have been dif­fi­cult to face again af­ter the last two years.” And that would have been be­fore he turned his thoughts to the civic re­cep­tion the coun­cil had planned for them re­gard­less of whether they had won here or not.

Now, he sug­gested, that will be “elec­tric” and it had been “spe­cial” to clinch an­other dou­ble in the way his side had: “to be push­ing and push­ing,” as he put it, “knock­ing on the door then to win it in a eu­phoric mo­ment like that.

“There’s some­thing about a cup fi­nal that is really eu­phoric in that in­stant,” he con­tin­ued “It was very spe­cial, a priv­i­lege to be a part of it really, a priv­i­lege to be part of such a great team to win in front of such a sub­stan­tial crowd in the bril­liant at­mos­phere we had in the sta­dium. It was a real plea­sure.”

Af­ter Sean Hoare’s early goal and the penalty the de­fender had then con­ceded, that de­ci­sive mo­ment had, from his per­spec­tive, been engi­neered by a sub­sti­tu­tion, Jamie McGrath for John Mount­ney, that had sub­tlety al­tered the shape of his side and opened up space for Sean Gan­non who had teed Pat McEleney up to per­fec­tion with a sim­ply won­der­ful cross.

John Caulfield, in­evitably, saw it some­what dif­fer­ently with the Cork City boss pin­point­ing the mis­take made by Shane Grif­fin that re­sulted in McGrath steal­ing pos­ses­sion and set­ting the right back on his way.

“He’s dis­ap­pointed,” the man­ager ac­knowl­edged, “but he had been play­ing really, really well. He’s a phe­nom­e­nal player but these things hap­pen. Alan Ben­nett made a mis­take but some­body cov­ered for him, he made his and we were open.”

What was not in dis­pute was the qual­ity of the as­sist or fin­ish, a goal wor­thy of win­ning any fi­nal, as they say, even if ev­ery­one seemed sur­prised by the way it had been scored. “He doesn’t score too many with his head,” ob­served Kenny with a touch of un­der­state­ment. The player him­self re­vealed that it was just the sec­ond of his ca­reer “but I wasn’t play­ing all that great so I needed some­thing like that. Now I’m over the moon.”

Down to earth

Caulfield, of course, has been brought firmly down to earth af­ter the de­light of this day 12 months ago but the City boss was gra­cious too, re­fus­ing to get drawn into a de­bate about whether Chris Shields might have been sent off for a sec­ond book­able of­fence early in the sec­ond half and pre­fer­ring in­stead to ex­press pride in a per­for­mance that had achieved much of what he and his play­ers had wanted out of the game be­fore­hand but clearly not enough.

“The two goals in the first half opened up the game up but there wasn’t much in it really and we got pun­ished for a mis­take, that was the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two sides in the end,” he said. “It’s dis­ap­point­ing but we con­grat­u­late Dun­dalk as dou­ble win­ners. We were dou­ble win­ners last year. It’s dis­ap­point­ing but we shake hands and move on.”

The for­mer City striker has much work to do with most of the club’s out-of-con­tract play­ers, a long-enough list that in­cludes their goal-scorer here Kieran Sadlier as well as Shane Grif­fin, Steven Beat­tie and Barry McNamee all set to move on. “Most of them,” he said, “have had bet­ter of­fers.”

For Dun­dalk, the im­me­di­ate chal­lenge is a lit­tle less daunt­ing with the bulk of the team tied down for next sea­son and the oth­ers sound­ing like they would rather like to hang around a lit­tle longer.

“I think we are get­ting back to where we were when we were in the Europa League,” said McEleney, who re­turned af­ter a spell away dur­ing the sum­mer, “and ob­vi­ously that will be in our sights again next year. The league and cup here is our bread and but­ter but our sights are on Europe, that’s where we want to do well.”

PHO­TO­GRAPHS: RYAN BYRNE/INPHO

Dun­dalk man­ager Stephen Kenny cel­e­brates af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle at the Aviva Sta­dium yes­ter­day. Right: Dun­dalk cap­tain Brian Gart­land raises the tro­phy.

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