Maguire takes second chance
FAI Cup Final: Dundalk 0 Cork City 1
Roy of the Rovers style moments have been pretty hard to come by in the career of Seán Maguire to date.
A stint in England, with an Upton Park-era West Ham, failed to work out, spells back home in Ireland with Sligo Rovers and Dundalk were less than starry, and even though he was a Dundalk player when they won the FAI Cup to seal the double 12 months ago, Maguire was not part of things.
His former club in London used their official Twitter account to congratulate Maguire on his success yesterday, but given that the closest the Kilkenny native came to the big time at West Ham was a seat on the bench for an FA Cup tie, it's fair to say that his time as a Hammer passed most people by.
But so much of the Cork City story is built around regeneration, revival and second chances.
And while a second successive double for Dundalk would have possibly confirmed their status as one of the best club sides in the history of the domestic game, few can begrudge Cork their success.
A club that was on its knees and out of business only a few short years ago. A club ending a frustrating spell of being second-best to Dundalk in the league and in the Cup, City players aware that, in Cork, second-best is not good enough.
Old stagers like the trio of Colin Healy, Alan Bennett and Mark McNulty, with a combined age of 107, coming back to land a Cup medal at this stage of their careers, all parts of a great script.
But the notion of Maguire, who was a rather unloved figure when he left Dundalk at the end of last season, scoring the winner with a penalty shoot-out only seconds away, is a chapter to remember.
His goal, a scrappy finish in the last minute of extra-time in front of 26,400 fans at the Aviva Stadium, was the 29th of the season from Maguire.
It will probably be his last as the striker, who was the subject of bids from Belgium and Sweden rejected by his club in the summer, is out of contract and in demand. A deal with a Championship club could well be sealed within days, unless a bigger and better offer lands.
But even if he departs now and tries his luck in England for a second time, Maguire will go down in Cork's sporting folklore, reputation enhanced and confidence restored.
"I can't put into words what this means to me, I wasn't even on the bench for the final last year, so just to play out there in front of a great crowd, in front of Cork fans who had travelled for three hours, was amazing," said Maguire, who nicked his late goal after the Dundalk defence had failed to clear a long throw-in from Steven Beattie, one of two Dubliners in the successful Cork side.
"As I said, this time last year I wasn't even on the bench so I said to myself when I joined Cork City that I would give it a right go. I put in a lot of hard work in pre-season and got myself into the team.
"I think that was my 29th goal throughout the season and I am just delighted the season's ended on a high and we are bringing the FAI Cup back to Cork, where it belongs.
"We had been saying all week, you couldn't ask for a better way to finish the game, winning the cup with me scoring the winner in the last minute," added Maguire.
"It wasn't my best game of the season. In the second half of extra-time I kept giving the ball away. I was just tired, my legs were gone, that was the only half-chance I got throughout the game and I was just happy to take it."
Until then, the crowd at the Dublin 4 venue had witnessed a goal-free but still enthralling duel between the teams who have been in their own two-club mini league for the last two seasons.
Dundalk looked leggy at times, especially in the first half, but regrouped well and appeared strong later on.
Cork also had their highs and lows, Dundalk needing some stunning saves from Gary Rogers to keep them in the game at times.
Yet City also needed their keeper Mark McNulty, the most loyal of loyal servants, to keep out a speculative but stunning effort from his former Cork team-mate Daryl Horgan six minutes from the end of extra-time.
But it fell to Maguire to break Dundalk hearts, though Cork know it will be hard to keep him there. "Maybe there'll be an opportunity for him to go to the UK," said manager John Cauldfield.
"With a lad like Seánie, the most important thing, whenever he moves on, is that you want him to go to a higher level again. But when you have a club like us, playing in Europe, playing in front of 30,000 out here, personally I think the right thing at the moment is to stay with us."
Stay or leave, Cork have a new hero and he's called Seán.