Thursday 23 November 2017

Horgan can lead Dundalk double charge

Daryl Horgan celebrates his goal against Zenit St Petersburg. Photo: David Maher. Photo: Sportsfile
Daryl Horgan celebrates his goal against Zenit St Petersburg. Photo: David Maher. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean Ryan

Despite the demands on his players, bidding for success on three fronts, Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny has shown consistency in his team selections - and that is one of the principal reasons for the success they have enjoyed over the past three seasons. It is also the reason why, despite their heroic exertions last Thursday in St Petersburg, they are hard to oppose to retain their FAI Cup crown at the Aviva Stadium this afternoon (3.40).

When Dundalk met Cork in last year's final, the game was decided by an incisive run by Daryl Horgan and a clinical left-foot finish by top scorer Richie Towell. Cork have since lost four from that team, while Dundalk lost Towell, now at Brighton. Yet, for today's game, Kenny is likely to field as many as nine of last year's team, despite them having had to endure a long journey from Russia, leaving minimal time to prepare.

Cork, who are well rested after playing their last game on Friday week, will have five new faces in their team from last year and, having won two of their three league encounters, will be confident of putting one over the champions.

However, they didn't win the one that mattered - when the league title was up for grabs - so the holders are fancied to complete a second successive double. It seems to be Cork's misfortune to be second best to the best the league has produced.

One of the principal reasons for Dundalk's success has been their signing of Horgan from Cork City three years ago. Now that Martin O'Neill is considering him for inclusion in the Irish team, it seems likely that he will follow the way of Pat Hoban (top scorer 2014) and Towell, and move abroad at the end of the season. Having successfully replaced the goals of Hoban and Towell to keep Dundalk on top, Kenny might find it more difficult to replace a game-breaker like Horgan, but he probably has his successor lined up already.

If Kenny is shrewd in his transfer dealings, then Cork boss John Caulfield isn't far behind. His key signing this season came from Dundalk and has finished top scorer in the league. Sean Maguire didn't get much of a look-in at Oriel Park but, installed as the main striker in Turner's Cross, he has blossomed into a finisher of rare talent.

It's a well-known trait of footballers that they seem destined to haunt their former employers. If that is to be the case today, then twinkle-toed Horgan or goal-poacher Maguire could be the men who grab the headlines. With a stellar backing cast, Horgan seems more likely to set the Aviva alight one more time - and give Martin O'Neill more food for thought.

Cork City v Dundalk
RTé2, 3.40

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