By John McAuliffe
Kevin O’Connor and his Cork City team-mates are confident that they can defeat Dundalk F.C in Sunday’s Irish Daily Mail FAI Senior Cup at the Aviva Stadium.
In a repeat of last year’s final, which Dundalk won 1-0 in extra time, Cork City will look to avenge the loss. O’Connor is relishing the opportunity of knocking Dundalk off their pedestal as the best team in the country.
“We want to show that Dundalk aren’t the only team in the country that can win trophies,” he said, speaking exclusively to TheCity.ie.
Kevin hails from Screen, Co. Wexford, and started his playing career with Curracloe Soccer team as well as representing his county at underage levels throughout his teenage years.
He was an exceptional player at underage and this was acknowledged by Waterford United, who signed him when he was just 17. He played there for two years before moving on to Cork City when he was 19 in 2014.
He’s gone from strength to strength since joining the club two seasons ago and even received a call up to the U-21 Ireland team where he played against countries like Serbia, Slovenia, Norway and Italy.
“It’s another step up for me with quality opposition. I played against some top players in those matches, most notably Marko Grujic, (a Serbian player now playing his club football at Liverpool). It was a good test for me,” he said.
This season, Kevin was named in the PFAI Team of the Year which was voted for by fellow professionals across the other teams in the league.
“Yes, it’s an honour for the lads to pick me for the team of the year, especially because it’s voted by the players who play against you. It’s a good feeling and it shows that I did well this season. To be honest, I would much rather a cup medal than that to be honest!”
He could very well accomplish that on Sunday against Dundalk and he gave his thoughts on how the match will go.
“I think that we are going to win but Dundalk have also been doing very well in the last two or three years. We’ve beaten them three times out of the four matches we played against them and on Sunday we hope to make it four out of five.”
Kevin acknowledges that Dundalk are a solid team with very dangerous players. “They have Horgan and MacMillan up front with McEleney and O’Donnell coming up from midfield. They’re strong all over but we’re also a good team and if we play well we are in with a good shout.”
When asked about Cork’s strengths he said: “We have a much better team this year. Obviously Seanie Maguire is on fire for us (18 league goals, 28 in all competitions) so hopefully he can do it for us again on Sunday.”
The final on Sunday is a rematch from last year. Dundalk were the victors that day but O’Connor believes that Cork are much better equipped to take them on and won’t be distracted by the big day that’s in it.
“Last year we were happier to be in the final than going out trying to win. This year we are going with more expectation than hope. If we play our best we can beat anyone in the league.”
O’Connor is also looking forward to playing the final in the Aviva stadium for the second time in two years.
“It’s a massive place. There was 25,000 people last year and hopefully there will be around 30-35,000 people this year. This chance doesn’t come around very often so we should take it when it is there for us.”
Winning the cup would not be the only highlight of O’Connor’s season, as he scored against BK Haken in the Europa league qualifying round.
“It was massive because it’s the furthest the club has ever got in the competition. It’s a night the team will never forget. I can’t really remember the immediate feeling, I just blanked when I saw the ball hit the net.”
Let’s hope he doesn’t blank on the feeling of lifting the cup if his team are victorious on Sunday. It would be the icing on the cake of a successful season for both O’Connor and Cork City.
Watch the Irish Daily Mail FAI Senior Cup: Dundalk F.C vs Cork City, Sunday 6th November, Kick-off 3:40 pm, Aviva Stadium.