Heroic Cummins unsure over future
Millwall, Watford, Reading and Colchester United have all expressed interest in €100,000-rated striker Graham Cummins, whose stoppage-time winner at Tolka Park on Saturday night landed the First Division championship for Cork City.
Cummins -- whose 24 league goals for Cork this season played a significant role in their success -- has a year left on his contract and is as tempted by the idea of moving as he is by the prospect of playing Premier Division football with his home-town team.
"I signed a new deal recently for a reason," said the 24-year-old. "I didn't just sign to then leave. But what will be, will be. I've no control over it.
"During the summer, when the speculation was first spoken of, my head was mixed up for three or four weeks. I didn't score for three games, which is a bit of drought for me. But for the last series of games I got my head in the right place."
Putting his head in the right place in the 94th minute -- when the scores were level and the title was destined for Shelbourne -- proved a fittingly climactic moment to a wonderful game, one in which Cork took an early lead, through Daryl Horgan only for Shelbourne to equalise via David Cassidy.
From here, the long-time leaders of this division looked more likely to close the deal but Mark McNulty, the Cork City goalkeeper, was in excellent form, as indeed was Cummins, who had a goal disallowed 17 minutes from time before that stoppage-time header saw Cork secure the three points, and with them the title.
"It's mad when a season comes down to 30 seconds of action," said Cummins. "That is something that cannot be scripted."
Yet it was in the script. And so Cork, after a two-year absence, are back in the Premier Division and their manager Tommy Dunne has shaken off the label that he was 'a boy doing a man's job'.
"This year and last year, people may have thought I was a greenhorn, but I had a bit of managerial experience in Finland which was great," said Dunne.
"Up until now, I've had some good tutors, including my dad, Paul Doolin, Damien Richardson and other, good League of Ireland people. I'm enjoying it, but I have to keep working hard like anybody else."
Hard work may have underpinned Cork's success, but an explanation for Shelbourne's surprising demise remains a mystery, particularly as their manager Alan Mathews declined to speak to the press after the game.
With the FAI Cup final to come next Sunday -- and promotion guaranteed -- this season has been far from a failure for the Dubliners. However, when the dust settles on this defeat, re-acquiring their composure to think about Sligo Rovers will have to happen swiftly.
As for Cork, they have longer-term issues to consider. "Now we're going into the Premier Division, we need to be fitter and stronger and need to add depth to our squad," said Dunne.
"I know it's a cliché, but we have to push on as a club. That starts Tuesday when we've got to start kicking back into gear for next year, hopefully signing a few players."
And retaining Cummins?
Dunne said: "Well, if a club is interested, sure listen we'll speak to them, no problem. But Cummins is a Corkman. He's happy tonight, he's won a trophy. He's looking forward to playing in the Premier Division next year. But should he go then we will wish him the best."
What's best for Cork, now, is a circular argument. Though talented, their squad is too light to challenge Shamrock Rovers for the Premier Division title. Against the sporting considerations, though, are financial ones.
And, having gone to the wall two years ago, Dunne is keen for Cork to avoid repeating mistakes from their past. "There is a lot of potential there. I just hope that with the supporters running the club, that everybody knows in Cork that it's in the right hands," he said.
"They won't let the club get into jeopardy for no man, which is brilliant. That's the way it should be. We've been League of Ireland people for so long and we've looked at so many clubs going under by spending too much money on players.
"Shamrock Rovers have the ideal model. They have outside investment, but a club run by supporters. That's the future for football in Ireland because we've tried the other way and it hasn't worked when there was too much money and too many people getting into trouble. They need to build their clubs."
Saturday's events have provided the perfect foundations.
Meanwhile, Monaghan United will play Galway United in a two-legged play-off this week to decide the 12th and final Premier Division spot.
Shelbourne -- Delaney; Matthews, Boyle, Ryan, Byrne; B McGill (Mulhall 90), Dawson, Sullivan, Clancy (Byrne 80); Cassidy; Hughes (Gorman 77).
Cork City -- McNulty; N Horgan, Kavanagh (Turner 90), Spillane, Murphy; G Morrissey, O'Halloran, Duggan, D Horgan (O'Brien 70); O'Neill (Sullivan h-t), Cummins.
REF -- P McLaughlin (Monaghan)