Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Beauty and the Beast

Cork City P33 W15 D 10 L 8 F 44 A 32 Pts 55 Final position 4th
Longford Town P33 W 9 D 8 L 16 F 34 A 49 Pts 29? Final position 12th

?
I've gone for a question mark as opposed to the more regularly roadtested asterisk, as one is usually liable to strike a quizzical pose in these instances - it denotes the deduction of six points from Longford's accumulated total due to licensing irregularities.

The final league table tells the tale of a season beset with hurdles, injuries, suspensions and unforeseen events. Cork City were always better equipped for the long haul then the slender squad bequeathed to Alan Matthews last Spring, and it shows in the stats. The never generous bookies make the Leesiders odds on favs to record their second success from the club's fourth appearance in the decider. The Town are also appearing for the fourth time, although they are chasing their 3rd success of the 21st century; the similarities don't begin there though - this pair joined the league on the same day back in 1984!

The last side to defeat Cork City in FAI Cup football were Longford Town, and the occasion produced one of Irish footballs most celebrated acronyms. The evening of May 26th 2006 is recorded in the anals of Corkonians as the night when they finally identified RRS - not the venue of the 2007 final, but Ridden Rock Solid.

On the field of play el Rico's side hold most of the trumps. An almost completely full-time squad confers his charges with the advantage of greater stamina, fitness and enhanced preparation. Not to mention his trio of international midfielders! Alan Matthews has assembled a squad of honest footballers; stuck together with the gaffer's tape, but he is possessed of a rare gift in the goalscoring talents of Dave Mooney.

Mooney has not set the eircom League alight before this campaign but his tally of 22 goals from 37 starts was the springboard for Longford's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to retain their Premier Division status. In midfield, the Midlanders will be without the suspended Gary Deegan - a serious blow to their hopes given that they are already without the cup-tied triumvirate of Colm James, Sean Kelly and Ian Ryan. Following the club's relegation it can be assumed that many of the Town's side will be turning out for the last time in the Red & Black stripes.

Both clubs appealed against their respective suspensions - Neal Horgan was ruled out for Cork City - but were rebuffed by the b's that power. City will absorb Hoggy's absence more readily with either Cillian Lordan or the experienced Colin O'Brien ready to slot in at right full. On the other flank there will be no return for hernia victim Darragh Ryan and Billy Woods is set to continue his stint at left full.

If Longford are to upset the odds at the RDS this Sunday they will have to negate the influence of the City midfield. It's very unlikely that Matthews' side can nullify the threat of all four for 90 minutes without defending gamely from the front two right through. Should they manage to achieve that they will give themselves a chance. City do not boast the defensive unity of the 2005 and 2006 camapigns and the trickery of Dessie Baker allied to the goaltouch and movement of Mooney can certainly cause problems for the favourites.

This suggests a serving of the beautiful game from City - should Longford allow it - and a helping of rugged cup football from the opposition. Longford are no strangers to the dark side of the beautiful game and will no doubt be inspired by their recent trip to the RDS to watch Leinster's rugby heroes in action. Up front, John O'Flynn has had a stop-one start-stop kind of season and is not at his sharpest; Denis Behan is boisterous and brawny but not prolific; Leon McSweeney may be preferred to one or other of that pair, he certainly showed enough against Bohemians in the semi-final to be worthy of a start. That start is unlikely to be in the wide position from which he bedazzled Bohs; he has been the most effective of Rico's strikers since Roy O'Donovan departed.

Alan Matthews is leading his men to their 5th cup final (League & FAI) in six seasons, a phenomenal achievement for the understated boss; Damien Richardson is under great pressure to deliver a trophy following a disappointing league campaign which was buoyed only by the ineptitudes of their closest rivals. With Arkaga leaning over his shoulder, a win may well provide him with welcome leverage when attempting to prise open the chequebook during the off season.

In a one-off game anything is possible, who thought Derry and Pats would exchange seven goals last year? Referee, Dave McKeon will begin proceedings at 3.30pm in the RDS on Sunday 2nd December and the winners will happily accept their €100K, while the losers will be consoled by the texture and scent of a cheque for €75K - it has been decreed.

Cork City

Path To The Final
Bohemians 0-2 Cork City Ford FAI Cup 2007 26 Oct 07 ->>
Cork City 4-0 Waterford United Ford FAI Cup 2007 25 Sep 07 ->>
Waterford United 1-1 Cork City Ford FAI Cup 2007 22 Sep 07 ->>
Cork City 5-1 Kilkenny City Ford FAI Cup 2007 17 Aug 07 ->>
Shelbourne 0-1 Cork City Ford FAI Cup 2007 15 Jun 07 ->>

Scorers
4: Denis Behan 3: Liam Kearney 2: John O'Flynn 1: Colin Healy, Leon McSweeney, Brian O'Callaghan, Roy O'Donovan


Longford Town

Path To The Final
UCD 0-1 Longford Town Ford FAI Cup 2007 28 Oct 07 ->>
Longford Town 3-1 Limerick 37 Ford FAI Cup 2007 22 Sep 07 ->>
Longford Town 2-0 Fanad United Ford FAI Cup 2007 18 Aug 07 ->>
Longford Town 1-0 Celbridge Town Ford FAI Cup 2007 16 Jun 07 ->>

Scorers
3: Dave Mooney 1: Richie Baker, Kevin Doherty, Jamie Duffy, Robbie Martin.

Previous meetings:
Cork City 3-2 Longford Town Eircom League Premier Division 2007 14 Sep 07 ->>
Longford Town 1-2 Cork City Eircom League Premier Division 2007 26 Jun 07 ->>
Cork City 2-0 Longford Town Eircom League Premier Division 2007 30 Mar 07 ->>
Cork City 1-1 Longford Town Eircom League Premier Division 2006 6 Oct 06 ->>
Longford Town 0-2 Cork City Eircom League Premier Division 2006 8 Jul 06 ->>
Longford Town 2-1 Cork City Ford FAI Cup 2006 26 May 06 ->>

Stan James Prices
Cork 4/6
Draw 9/4
Longford 4/1

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