Dundalk will enjoy home advantage in their Enda McGuill U19 Memorial Cup final against Cork City, with manager Martin Connolly hoping that fans will come out in numbers to support his side.
The young Lilywhites made it through to the decider after a deserved 1-0 win over Bohemians at Dalymount Park on Tuesday night, and Cork joined them 24 hours later with a 2-1 extra-time victory over Waterford United.
The final will take place at Oriel Park after Dundalk won the toss, with Connolly understandably thrilled when he heard the news.
“I’m delighted that it’s in Oriel Park,” Martin, who is also the club’s Youth Development Officer, told dundalkfc.com.
“I got the phone call today (Thursday) to tell us that we won the toss; it’s great that we won something involved with it.
“I believe that the FAI are planning to advertise it locally and do some local publicity, so it should be good.
“Hopefully, we will get a good local crowd to come out and support us.
“We’re relieved that we don’t have to travel to Cork. It would be a logistical nightmare; you would be wondering what the best thing to do is in a situation like that.
“You’re always wondering if you’re better off going down the day before and staying over, or what.
“Even the financial end of things would be tough on the club, so I’m relieved from that point of view too.”
Asked how much of an advantage having the game at Oriel Park will be, Connolly was quick to quash the notion that the artificial surface will help his side.
“I don’t buy the one about the pitch,” he said. “A lot of the young people today who are playing soccer are well used to Astroturf pitches.
“I don’t buy that, that Astroturf is an advantage to anybody, and obviously Cork City don’t believe that either because they haven’t complained one bit about it.
“I think the advantage, if any, is that if we can manage to get a good crowd out and get the people behind us, it will help the players, plus the fact that you don’t have to drive nearly four hours down the road to play the match.
“But the thing about the Astroturf pitch, I don’t accept that anymore because people are well used to playing on them. They hold no surprises to a lot of people.”
Cork are close to sealing the Elite Division title, as they aim for a League & Cup double.
However, having beaten their closest challengers Shamrock Rovers in the quarter-finals, as well as fourth-placed Bohemians in the last four, Dundalk can enter the game in confident mood.
“I believe their semi-final against Waterford was a tight game,” Connolly said.
“I spoke to somebody who was at it and they said it was a close game, and Waterford, they felt, deserved penalties.
“But I felt that Cork were going to win it. They’re top of the Elite Division, they have only lost two games all year, and it’s going to be another step-up for us and another challenge.
“But we’re looking forward to it.
“Cork are playing St. Pat’s in Dublin on Saturday. I think Mick (Neville) intends to go to that. And they’re playing Shelbourne next week and we intend to have someone at that too.”
It is hoped that a decision on a date for the final will be decided on Friday, with Sunday 6 May likely to be ruled out due to the Women’s Cup Final.
Photograph thanks to D.C. Photography.