Maguire on fire as Saints slump
As a former striker, St Patrick's Athletic boss Liam Buckley can only sit back and admire the forward play of current U21 cap - and hopefully a future senior international - Sean Maguire whose goals dumped Pat's out of the FAI Cup and sent Cork City into the final for the season year in a row.
It's just a pity for Saints fans that there was so little to admire from their own players, the season effectively over for the Inchicore club with a month still to play.
Well adrift in the league table, the Cup was the only realistic hope of a major trophy this term (though Pats did land the League Cup last month).
But the FAI Cup was their route to a big trophy, a day out at Lansdowne Road, a way into Europe for the seventh season in a row and that tasty reward of €200,000 in UEFA prize money.
Now that their Cup run is over, the rest of the season will be a grueller for the Saints fans.
Yesterday was another frustrating day in a frustrating season for the Saints, a decent first-half display undone by an awful performance in the second half. The sides were level at half time, Alan Bennett and Chris Fagan trading goals, but those second half goals from Maguire gave Cork a deserved win.
"None of us are happy with the way the season's gone. It was nice to retain the League Cup but we want to be playing better, it's frustrating when you don't, and ultimately if you don't play by design, to some degree, you are going to struggle to win trophies here," admitted Buckley, who was thrilled by the display of Cork striker Maguire.
"In fairness to Maguire, he is a top player, he did really well and I have no doubt he can step above again. The second goal killed us, it sucked the life out of us. It was a really good header, being a [former] centre forward myself I can appreciate it, it was a super header but defensively we were poor on it.
"And for the third goal Maguire did really well, it was a nothing ball in but he is really good at chasing down lost causes, it was a terrific finish."
Maguire, who had an unsuccessful spell in England with West Ham after bursting into the scene with Waterford United, is a busy lad, scoring goals (24 of them now) for Cork and he's also in the Ireland U21 squad, though not in the U21 side's starting XI. Magure is due to play for the U21s at home to Serbia next Friday and rejoin the City squad for Saturday's league clash with Galway United.
Out of contract at the end of this season, the chances of Maguire still being a City player into 2017 are slim as he has his fans outside this country, and was the subject of a bid of €175,000 by a Belgian club in the summer, a bid rejected as too low by Cork.
City boss John Caulfield has only praise for the forward. "At the start of the season he was nowhere, but he came into us, his training was phenomenal, he keeps his feet on the ground - which is very hard for a young man to do," said Caulfield.
"Rejection early on at West Ham has probably done him well, some fellahs can fall into a trap, lose their confidence and get disillusioned, but he came to the right club, he has done phenomenally well, he's a brilliant guy, a pleasure to be with every day, but to be fair to the team there's a fantastic spirit and attitude among them, they are all good lads and I can't speak highly enough of them," added Caulfield, relishing another Cup final.
"It's great to get back to the Aviva, great for the lads themselves, for the club and our supporters, this club has been turned around very quickly in the last few years, Dundalk have set a phenomenal marker and we've been trying to push them, this year we feel we are getting close to them, results suggest that so it's great to get back to the Aviva, and we have seven league games now which are massive to us."
For Pats, fifth place is now the depressing aim. "It's looking unlikely we will get Europe now, we have some games to go and we can still have some sort of impact on it," added Buckley.
"We have some important games, we have to play Cork twice again and play Dundalk so I want us to effect the league table to some degree and there will be no easy matches, I want everyone to understand that we will stick at it until the end of the season, get as high as we can bearing in mind we probably won't make Europe but if we can get fifth, I want to get it."