Sunday 11 December 2016

Bolger hails triumph over 'best side League of Ireland has produced'

Published 08/11/2016 | 02:30

Cork City players Greg Bolger (L) and Sean Maguire (right) celebrate at the end of the Cup Final. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Cork City players Greg Bolger (L) and Sean Maguire (right) celebrate at the end of the Cup Final. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Greg Bolger says that Cork City's FAI Cup joy on Sunday took on special significance because of the quality of the opposition.

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The Wexford native echoed the sentiments of his senior colleague Alan Bennett by asserting that it was sweet to get one over on Dundalk after three successive second-placed league finishes.

Bolger was only there for this year after joining from St Patrick's Athletic last winter, but he has tapped into the feeling in the Cork dressing-room.

And he feels that John Caulfield's cup winners deserve credit for being the only side to seriously challenge Stephen Kenny's Dundalk. He is full of admiration for the team that was eventually undone by Sean Maguire's 121st-minute winner.

"To be fair to Dundalk, they are a serious side," said Bolger . "To go for 120 minutes having just come back from Russia, they are on a different level.

"They are definitely the best side the League of Ireland has produced. I don't know what teams were like back when I wasn't playing, but in my time in the league, they are the top.

"They are like a European team. I've played in a lot of European games with Pat's and they are right up there with their movement - (Daryl) Horgan and (Patrick) McEleney coming off the wings.

"They will test you and ask questions of you that other teams in the league wouldn't. Credit to them but I really think we deserve this because of the work we put in.

"We brought them right to the final weeks of the season, beat them four times out of five and still came up short. But we beat them (on Sunday) and it's credit to us.

"We need to get serious credit for sticking in there that long.

"And we deserved a trophy. The amount of effort we put in, it would have been demoralising if we lost the league having gone right to the end and then the cup as well."

Bolger says the challenge for Cork now is to strengthen this winter and keep up the pace with Dundalk, as he anticipates some of their European money will go towards bolstering their panel.

Both teams will have to cope with interest in their main assets. Maguire has been strongly linked with a move to Championship club Preston after his 29-goal season.

"It's a nice rivalry to have," said the combative midfielder. "So it's nice to come out on top."

There was small consolation for Dundalk's Chris Shields yesterday when he was named Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month for October. Kenny said he was delighted for a player that has 'good values, he wants to train well and is a great professional'.

Shields' contribution at the Aviva ended just after half-time, with a head injury ruining his afternoon.

For the Dundalk collective, it was a painful experience and a contrast from the emotions they have felt for the most of the year.

Full-back Sean Gannon will now turn his mind to the next Europa League date with AZ Alkmaar in a fortnight's time.

"Cork are a brilliant team and they have a lot of good players," said Gannon. "It was just theirs on the day, we have to accept that. We lost in the last minute of extra-time, that's going to hurt.

"We are professional players and we need to keep getting ourselves ready for the next game.

"When Alkmaar come to Tallaght in two weeks' time we'll be ready for it."

Irish Independent

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