Dundalk shock as Sheppard agrees new Cork contract
Cork City have secured another big win over Dundalk by convincing striker Karl Sheppard to perform a dramatic last-minute U-turn and turn down a transfer to Oriel Park to sign a new two-year deal.
The move came as a huge shock to Dundalk who felt that a deal to sign the Dubliner was done and dusted.
It's understood that a pre-contract agreement was thrashed out well in advance of Sunday's FAI Cup final but Cork staff and players made a renewed effort to keep the 26-year-old and their efforts were successful.
Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny said last week that he didn't want to put the player in an awkward position but he admitted there was truth to the speculation about a move north.
lashed That led to discussion of whether the player might somehow be compromised in the Aviva Stadium encounter and afterwards he lashed out at anybody who had doubted his professionalism.
With Sheppard under contract at Cork until the end of the season, he could only sign a pre-contract deal with a prospective employer.
Dundalk are believed be considering their response to Sheppard's unexpected change of heart which will be dependent on the finer points of a pre-contract arrangement - but a player cannot formally sign the contract forms for the 2018 season until his existing deal expires. Sheppard has now officially extended his stay at Cork until the end of the 2019 campaign.
"Last week was a difficult week, but that is in the past now and I am delighted to commit to the club," he said.
"Next season, we need to try and go out and win the league again, try and win the FAI Cup again and we have the Champions League to look forward to."
There is a precedent within the league for a player reconsidering his options; midfielder Ciarán Martyn had a pre-contract deal with Shelbourne in 2004 but opted to stay with Derry City.
The player ended up paying money to Shels as part of settling the dispute. There was also an issue with Northern Ireland's Chris Turner in 2010 when he initially agreed a move to Sligo Rovers but ended up signing for Shamrock Rovers instead after a protracted process. In addition to news of Sheppard's retention, Cork have also announced the capture of English right full-back Tobi Adebayo Rowling from Sligo Rovers.
The Leesiders are still one man down with the expected departure of midfielder Greg Bolger to Shamrock Rovers confirmed. "He brings vital experience to us and he understands what it takes to win in this country," said Stephen Bradley.
The Sheppard news is a blow to Dundalk ahead of what promises to be an interesting winter for the club.
They have been in discussions with representatives of Peak 6, an American-based private equity firm that currently owns 25pc of Bournemouth.
The Chicago-based company bought into Bournemouth in 2015 and they are looking at expanding their interest in football which has led to talks with the Oriel Park club.