Cork winger Beattie ready to renew spicy Dundalk rivalry
There will be a trophy presented at Turner's Cross tonight but the President's Cup is effectively a warm-up for the start of proper business next week.
It is always competitive when Cork City and Dundalk meet, however, and the long winter break and the identity of the opponent should ensure a lively Friday evening around Turner's Cross.
Few will expect a friendly encounter. This brings together the two teams that have fought out the last three league titles and two FAI Cup finals.
Dundalk had always come out on top until their double double dreams were ended by Sean Maguire's injury-time winner at the Aviva Stadium last November.
That gave Cork their first real silverware of the John Caulfield era, although they did pick up the President's Cup this time 12 months ago, a game that proved significant in the longer term because it gave them the belief they could beat Stephen Kenny's side over 90 minutes.
It's a bit of a cliched term, but this February meeting gives the respective camps the opportunity to lay down a marker.
The edge will be there. After going toe to toe for so long, tension is inevitable. There were rows on the pitch during Dundalk's league winning game in October, with the Leesiders' veteran centre-half Alan Bennett subsequently saying he was unhappy with opposition behaviour.
And, in the aftermath of their big win at the Aviva, Cork keeper Mark McNulty took the stage at the homecoming to offer his acerbic take on the plaudits that Dundalk received for their European run.
"It's a hostile rivalry but there's a mutual respect I feel," says Cork winger Steven Beattie, a Dub who now feels at home down south.
"There's no hatred there really. We have to respect the talent Dundalk have and they respect the talent we have. It's a nice rivalry for a neutral.
"Dundalk are a top team and so are we. What Dundalk in Europe last year was fantastic but we weren't far away. Genk knocked us out and ended up topping their Europa League group, beating Serie A and La Liga opposition."
The Belgians have since sold Leon Bailey and Wilfred Ndidi to Bayer Leverkusen and Leicester respectively for a combined £25m plus add-ons so they were a serious outfit.
That's why Beattie feels pushing them close should give Cork the motivation to launch their own Europa League campaign this term in addition to challenging Dundalk for the league and cup.
"It was huge that we got over the line in the cup final and we've got a taste for success now," asserts the 28-year-old. "We haven't lost anyone from our starting 11 and we've strengthened big-time so I think we're going to go very close."
Some key men from both camps could miss out tonight. Bennett is a doubt and his old adversary, Dundalk's top scorer Dave McMillan, is definitely sidelined along with Chris Shields, Gary Rogers and Jamie McGrath.
The champions are in negotiations to bring in ex-Shamrock Rovers attacker Thomas Stewart as striking cover.
Meanwhile, Rovers have been dealt with a blow ahead of their league opener with Dundalk next Friday as winter capture Paul Corry faces another spell on the sidelines after his troublesome knee flared up.
The Hoops' medical team are considering the next course of action. Corry's time in England was cut short by knee trouble.