Reborn Derry to overcome Cork in a tale of two cities
It isn't the first tale of two cities encountering the best and worst of times -- but the reunion of Cork City and Derry City in tonight's EA Sports Cup final at Turner's Cross acts as a kind of morality tale.
Relegated within a year of each other because of financial mismanagement, the reawakening of two of the domestic game's giants has provided proof that clubs can be simultaneously successful and prudent.
Three years ago, Cork were anything but prudent, working up an unmanageable debt which forced them into examinership, just 12 months ahead of Derry's financial implosion.
The prospect of either coming back seemed unlikely.
Yet an enforced period of atonement in the First Division has purified their values and tonight they are back, finalists in the calendar's third most important competition, their pride and credibility restored.
"For us to both be here after what happened is incredible," said Derry City manager Stephen Kenny. "To put everything in context, we had only five signed players on our books on New Year's Day, 2010.
"We're now top of the league, in a cup final and have done so with a squad which, barring two outsiders, is made up of players who were born within a six-mile radius of the Brandywell.
"In many ways, that's unique. But then you look at Cork, another club who have rebuilt their team with local talent and you realise the importance of parochialism in Irish sport. It's incredible they are still in the First Division. I'd love to see them come back up."
Comebacks certainly appear to be theme of this final, not just in terms of each club's restructuring process but also in the manner of Kenny and his counterpart Tommy Dunne's rehabilitation.
For Kenny, after an unhappy period at Dunfermline, a second league title, eight years after his previous success with Bohemians, is now within touching distance.
Dunne, meanwhile, has overcome Roddy Collins's accusation that he was a 'boy doing a man's job' to prove he can hack it in one of Ireland's more pressurised positions.
"From my side of things, when I came in as manager we were building from the start," said Dunne. "I said it was a three-year job to get structured right. We would like to get back into the Premier Division this year. It's going to be tough.
"But for any club, three years is about right to be getting to where you want to be."
Home advantage will count for something but Derry's superior talent and experience should count for more, particularly if they are able to sustain the fast tempo which has characterised their season.
Cork City v Derry City,
Live, Setanta Ireland, 6.0