The reluctant fireman

Football (Soccer)
Cork City v Dundalk (FAI Senior Cup Final)
The Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Sunday 6th November (3.40pm kick off)

A couple of Cork City fans wander into the corner West Stand singing a drunken song. The game is already under way. They spot a couple of Dundalk fans sitting a few seats ahead and make their way towards them. They sit either side of them, through their arms around them and sing a bit louder in case the rival pair cannot hear them. It’s as close to serenading as I’ve seen at a football match.

A flare fizzes towards the goal from the crowd and spurts out the green smoke, the Cork colours slowly enveloping the goalkeeper at this end. No one takes too much notice except a bored-looking fireman who picks up a bucket he has placed behind the goal for just such an occasion and douses the flare into it.

A nation’s Cup Final is often the pinnacle to the season, the last game. But for Dundalk there is still more to come, as they are still in with a fighting chance in the Europa Cup. Ireland’s summer season and the rest of Europe’s winter calendar have ensured  a straddling of seasons so they still need to welcome AZ Alkmaar (to Dublin because their own stadium is not big enough) before a trip to Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel. More could follow if they qualify. This is already their 51st match this season, which started against Cork on 27 February.

Just how that European campaign continues could will determine how long Daryl Horgan, the flying winger remains a Dundalk and League of Ireland player. The money of English football has been circling and it can’t be long before he is off. The number seven, who joined Dundalk from Cork has shone in the spotlight of European competition – even being named in Martin O’Neill’s national squad, a real rarity for a League fo Ireland player in recent years.

But to his credit Horgan, stocky, strong and hard-working, as well as skilful, has batted away rumours of his impending transfer. Even when Newcastle’s name was mentioned he said he was staying put because there was no way he’d be playing European football if he joined a Championship or other lower league English club. But Dundalk’s adventure will come to an end eventually and so will Horgan’s League of Ireland career (at least for a while).

There is another burst of green smoke followed by the plod of the fireman and his bucket. “Silly boys,” he’s probably thinking.

Cork’s own Europa Cup campaign went well enough, reaching the Third Qualifying Road after beating Linfield from the north and Sweden’s BK Häcken on the way. But to the flare boys today is the route to some revenge over a club that beat them to the title and stole the headlines.

The Aviva looks more imposing down in the lower tier, where I am sitting for this game. It’s impressive from the upper sections, make no mistake, but when seated up there you are seeing it as an equal. Down here it towers tall, its characteristic wavy bowl design enhanced in scale.

But the players aren’t admiring the stadium design, they are searching to break the 0-0 deadlock as the tick clocks first towards 90 minutes and the end or normal time, then towards 120 minutes and the end of extra time. But with just second to go before penalties are needed to decide the winners Sean Maguire slides home a winner for the greens.

Another flare shoots from the crowd and the fireman shrugs his shoulders and heads towards his bucket.

Ticket: €10 for a seat in the West Stand Lower plus Ticketmaster’s €2.
Getting there:
Score: Cork City 1 Dundalk 0












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