Monday 23 September 2019

Sheppard happy not to be the focus ahead of this year's final

Cork City's Karl Sheppard. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Cork City's Karl Sheppard. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Denis Hurley

For Karl Sheppard, this year's FAI Cup final build-up is quite removed from the experience of 2017.

Ahead of last year's decider, the Cork City winger was the subject of rumours linking him with a move to opponents Dundalk, with Lilywhites manager Stephen Kenny's comments adding to the growing anticipation.

However, after Sheppard helped City to complete the double with a penalty shootout win, he opted to stay on Leeside after talks with manager John Caulfield and he is happy to not be the centre of attention this time.

"(The preamble) last year was a bit interrupted at times," he says. "It's nice to be able to concentrate on the football.

"Last year wasn't the easiest build-up I've had to a game, especially a cup final, but that's all in the past now and we've played them about four times since then. Thankfully it's in the back of my mind and long gone.

"I'm delighted to still be at Cork. The only reason I was thinking of moving at the time was the girlfriend had a little one and she wasn't going to be able to commute all the time but thankfully she was able to move down and all three of us are settling in really well. The little one is in school. I can safely say Cork is basically home now."

Instead of transfers, shaking off a hamstring injury in time for Sunday is the focus of Sheppard's attention.

He hasn't featured since being forced off late in the semi-final replay win over Bohemians and is likely to face a late fitness test.

"I was playing with a grade-two tear in the hamstring for a couple of weeks, myself and Steven Beattie," he says.

"We had to go through the pain barrier for a while around the semi-final. Both of the Bohs games, myself and him were in pain for most of it.

"We knew if we could get the win we'd take the break. Mine has been a bit slower than I would have liked but the fitness is getting there.

"I've started to train this week and the extra few days will help. It means I can do fitness work during the week to get that up for the game.

"Last week I tried to come back into training and had a slight relapse in my programme as I thought I'd be back in for the Bray game, that was the plan originally.

"But thankfully the physios gave me good advice in missing the Bray game and I'm starting to feel good now. The saving grace for me is the extra two days we get than a normal Friday game would."

In that Bohs win, Sheppard - a former Shamrock Rovers player - scored and cupped his ears with his hands while he also drew the ire of some Gypsies fans for a tweet he posted.

"I know I was getting stick but for me it was more about the team getting stick," he said.

"We were going through a sticky patch at the time and everyone was only too happy to jump on the bandwagon and have a pop off Cork.

"Coming out of that game, we got to a fourth cup final in a row and finished second in the league.

"People needed to take a step back when we weren't doing as well as we could have and say if it wasn't for this Cork team, nobody would challenge Dundalk at all and it would be a very boring league to be part of.

"For me, it was strange coming out of that and even getting abuse from a Bohs manager who called us agricultural. I'm sitting back looking at it and saying, 'We finished 20, 25 points ahead of Bohs again this year.'

"We don't let these things affect us but we put them in the back of our mind and maybe it drives us on and gives us that extra bit of motivation."

Irish Independent

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