2017 was a historic year for Cork City Football Club. What started with a comprehensive Presidents Cup success against Dundalk concluded with a nervy wrecking penalty shoot-out victory over the same opponents to complete the Rebel Army’s first league and F.A.I Cup double since 1951. In between was the record-breaking run of SSE Airtricity League Premier Division wins at the beginning of the campaign, the record-breaking goalscoring form of Sean Maguire and a couple of impressive victories for good measure. Here, I list my top five moments from this incredible year as witnessed from the stands and the press box, where I was fortunate to witness many a moment.
(5) St Patricks Athletic 0 Cork City 3.
Probably a surprise entry at number five given the number of impressive victories City notched this season but this was the night I made my first trip to Richmond Park. Cork vs a Dublin side are often tense affairs and this was no different on a relatively chilly night towards the end of April. John Caulfield’s side was looking to make it 10 wins in a row at the beginning of the new campaign but struggled to find a way through Pats’ defence. That was until a fortunate own goal sent them on their way just shy of the hour mark before Karl Sheppard and Garry Buckley settled any nerves with further finishes late on. A good debut to have in the away end of Richmond Park with one of the abiding memories being of a young fan being told off by a steward after his friend lifted onto the pitch whilst celebrating the first goal.
(4) Dundalk 0 Cork City 3.
Probably the day Cork City wrapped up the league title in many people’s eyes. City travelled to Oriel Park looking to make it an incredible 17 wins from the first 18 games of the season. Many were expecting a tight game in the build-up but Sean Maguire had other ideas. The striker grabbed a stunning hat-trick to put Cork City 18 points clear of their opponents and reigning league champions and he did it in front of the watching Republic of Ireland management duo of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane. They could have done with him nine days later when Ireland drew 1-1 at home with Austria but this performance would ensure he remained in their thoughts whilst keeping City on the road to glory. Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch this game live as I was in Togher reporting on a local Cork Schoolboys League match. Priorities, but the highlights made for good viewing. They still do.
The Seanie show! Cork City are 18 points clear at the top & still unbeaten after Sean Maguire's hat-trick sealed a 3-0 win over Dundalk. pic.twitter.com/LLvUEc6Gag
— Sportsfile (@sportsfile) June 2, 2017
(3) Cork City 4 Levadia Tallinn 2.
The reason that Dundalk game wasn’t higher is because I couldn’t watch it live whereas I did with the top three. I was fortunate to be in the Press box at Turners Cross when Levadia Tallinn rolled into town at the start of July looking to avenge their 0-2 first leg defeat a week earlier. They looked set to do just that when they twice took the lead through Evengii Kobza and a very controversial strike from Nikita Andreev either side of a Karl Sheppard leveller for Cork. But again Sean Maguire had other ideas. The striker, now set move to Preston North End at the end of the month, scored a second-half hat-trick to send City into the next round, to earn the club another huge payday and to make him the clubs all-time top goal scorer in Europe. To top it off, he signed my match day programme a couple of weeks later to increase the good feeling I have towards that match.
— Extratime.ie (@ExtratimeNews) July 6, 2017
(2) Cork City 0 Derry City 0.
I was in the Shed in 2005 when Cork City won their first league title in 12 years, the second in the club’s history. What followed was a turbulent 12 years for the club where they added little silverware and almost went out of existence entirely. Yet on the 17th of October 2017, here we were again. Derry City at Turners Cross with Cork City having the chance to win their first league title in 12 years, this time the third in the clubs history. The match had been scheduled for the night before but Storm Ophelia took its anger out on the Derrynane Stand roof which resulted in the game being put back a day. But neither Ophelia nor Derry could stop the Leesiders from getting the point they needed to finally seal the title. Cue mass celebrations, cue a long night for reporters interviewing the triumphant players and management after the match. Oh, as for the match itself, nothing really happened but nobody really cared as Cork won the league and Derry sealed their place in Europe. Great night for everyone.
(1) Dundalk 1 Cork City 1 after extra time. Cork City won 5-3 on penalties.
This had to be number one really. What can you even say about this FAI Cup final? The third time in as many years these sides contested this final. Third time these sides entered the match having finished first and second in the league. Third time this final went to extra time. But with one cup final success apiece against each other, this was the first time the sides would have to be separated on penalties. But before that Dundalk led at halftime in extra time through Niclas Vemmelund before Achille Campion etched his name in Cork City folklore with an unlikely leveller shortly before the end. So to penalties and after four successful spotters each, step up Mark McNulty, who had been heavily criticised for his public taunting of the Lilywhites during their title-winning party. McNulty made the save, Kieran Sadlier scored City’s next penalty and the final was decided. It sealed the Clubs first double since 1951 and it also capped an unprecedented day of triumph for Cork City who’s women’s had lifted the F.A.I Cup in the match beforehand. For me, I was in stands to witness a historic occasion and contributed several articles to the matchday programme. Not bad all round.
Anyway, that’s my top five moments from City’s double-winning season, feel free to comment below if you agree, disagree or think I missed something. And feel free to look through the slideshow of some of my other photos from throughout the season.