Vanquished Caulfield vows: 'We will be better next season'
The disappointment was etched on his face, but John Caulfield was magnanimous in defeat as he paid tribute to a Dundalk side that continues to cause him pain.
Caulfield is still waiting to register a first win over Stephen Kenny after two seasons of finishing in the runners-up position in the league was followed by FAI Cup pain at the Aviva Stadium.
"To be fair to Dundalk, in extra-time I thought they totally dominated us," conceded the Cork boss. "I thought for long periods of the match we were well in there but certainly in extra-time we were in trouble and on the back foot and we have no excuses from that point of view.
"They (Dundalk) are a phenomenal bunch of guys with an exceptional manager. They've won the league twice and they've won the double. From our point of view, our players left everything on the pitch. That's all I asked for and if that wasn't good enough, then fair enough. Obviously today it wasn't."
Caulfield's mind will now turn to the future and trying to find a way to knock the Louthmen off their perch. He expects changes in the dressing room with speculation over the intentions of senior citizens Dan Murray and Colin Healy who were introduced as subs in this encounter.
"I think I know where I'm going," he said. "I think I know where I've to get to and that's the challenge - that's why I'm working so hard. I suppose you look at last year and our points total probably would have won most leagues. We've been second two years in a row, we've been in Europe and a cup final.
"I don't want to mention names but I think we understand that there will be players moving on and we know where we have to change the dynamics and we've been aware of that for a while.
"As I keep saying, there's been unbelievable players for Cork City and brilliant servants and, no matter when, everyone's day comes. The challenge is the level Dundalk are at - we have to get up to that.
"So, look it, all the lads are absolutely gutted, they gave everything, and as a manager, you can't ask any more. Some days you're beaten by a better side and you can't hide from that.
"The one thing is that I'm confident we'll be back again and it's my job with John Cotter to make sure we're a better side next year."
His skipper John Dunleavy was singing from a similar hymn sheet.
"Right now, emotions are very raw; it's hard to take it in," said the Donegal defender. "We are improving but it's not nice to come out on the wrong side of a cup final.
"Dundalk are difficult to play against but where they are, we know we have to get to. We've no doubt we can get there.
"We didn't test their 'keeper enough today, for whatever reason. We've got to come back stronger, and we believe we will. The club is going forward, it's about taking things to the next step."
Goalkeeper Mark McNulty, Cork's longest serving player, believes that Dundalk have a bit more to do before they earn some of the accolades that have been showered in their direction.
"Dundalk are a great side," he said. "I hear a lot of people saying they are the best League of Ireland side ever - I don't think so. I've seen a lot of top Bohs and Shels teams throughout my career here.
"They are a good side, they've done the double, fair play to them, congratulations. But we are back next year, we'll be stronger, we'll have the bit between our teeth.
"It's a sad day today for everyone involved in the club. But next year we'll be looking back at it and saying, 'Remember what it was like last year?'
"We are going to be champions and we are going to win the cup - no doubt we'll be up there next year."