“Hell,” Ackley said. “If I had his dough, I would, too.”
“No, you wouldn’t.” I shook my head. “No, you wouldn’t, Ackley kid. If you had his dough, you’d be one of the biggest–“
“Stop calling me ‘Ackley kid,’ God damn it. I’m old enough to be your lousy father.”
The most compelling rivalry currently in Irish sport is the annual duel between Cork City and Dundalk for the League of Ireland Premier Division title. Since the rivalry emerged in 2014 Dundalk have always seemed to come out on top. As Dundalk won 3 titles in a row, won an FAI Cup and went on an historic Europa League run, even poor old Cork’s cup final victory over Dundalk in 2016 was overshadowed by their rival’s achievements and dismissed by many as an aberration, attributable to the demands of Dundalk’s Europa League campaign rather than to any quality on Cork’s part. And although Cork would now appear to hold the upper hand, given their status as current league and cup champions, in the eyes of many Dundalk remain the best team and can still hold their more sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing style above Cork, even in defeat.
Since their first significant title challenge under Caulfield in 2014 Cork’s style has evolved considerably. Gone are the days of Colin Healy kicking players all over the field and the 2015 season when their midfield got to watch the ball sail over their heads each week. Cork play a more varied style of game now, albeit one that is still marked significantly by pragmatism. But with the presence of 2 fantasy players in their lineup, in the shape of the curly haired dreamer Barry McNamee and, potentially the league’s best player, in Kieran Sadlier, Cork now have the chance to win the battle for hearts and minds too. Caulfield has the resources at his disposal to, not only win the league and cup, but to win them in style.
However, based on Friday night’s match, this may not be a battle that Caulfield can win. Although the evidence is limited, given the early red card shown to Graham Cummins, Cork’s gameplan seemed to be defined largely by the bustling Conor McCormack and a brutally efficient counter attack rather than on any aspirations towards aesthetic purity. And it was devastatingly effective, yielding 2 goals from just 2 attacks, both in the first 15 minutes. It just seems unlikely to win over the purists.
Nevertheless, they did manage to overcome Buckley’s band of merry men. Although St. Pats recovered the two goal deficit they never quite managed to get ahead. They clearly missed the creativity of Killian Brennan, one of the most devious minds in Ireland. And Buckley probably waited too long to introduce Darragh Markey, the Irish Pablo Aimar, from the bench.
And then, in the 82nd minute, out of the blue, came the devastating shock of Kieran Sadlier’s winner for Cork. It was like the moment in The Wire when that kid kills Omar or the scene in Infernal Affairs/The Departed when Tony Leung/Leonardo di Caprio is shot. Instant, unanticipated tragedy puncturing our heroes’ quest for justice.