Dundalk win FAI Irish Daily Mail Cup Final
Cork City 0-1 Dundalk (After extra-time)
Midfielder Towell struck for the only goal of an intriguing final between the country's top two sides two minutes into the second period of extra-time.
Astonishingly, it was the 24-year-old’s 29th goal in all competitions this year to give Stephen Kenny’s all-conquering Lilywhites the club's 10th FAI Cup victory and a third double in their history.
“I don’t really trust my left foot much,” quipped a delighted Towell of his match-winning goal.
“I said to Horgs (Daryl Horgan) coming out for extra-time ‘just give me one chance’.
“He was getting into great spaces. So, I just wanted one opportunity and I was confident I was going to put it away.
“The little man put it on my foot, as he usually does, and I was lucky enough to hit the back of the net.”
Both managers had big selection calls to make before kick-off.
Cork boss John Caulfield opted for Alan Bennett in central defence ahead of Dan Murray while Kevin O’Connor started in central midfield as Colin Healy only made the bench.
Likewise, Dundalk manager Kenny had decisions to make as skipper Stephen O’Donnell wasn’t fit to start. That meant Chris Shields, as expected, anchored their midfield with Towell while Darren Meenan got the nod ahead of John Mountney on the right flank.
With the rain having subsided, the players still had to contend with a swirling wind as the 95th cup final kicked off.
Cork had a promising attack inside the opening minute, though Mark O’Sullivan’s header from a Billy Dennehy cross scarcely troubled Gary Rogers in the Dundalk goal.
Dundalk responded three minutes later with an incisive move setting up Ronan Finn who turned smartly on the edge of the area to curl a shot not far wide of Mark McNulty’s left-hand post.
That sparked a sustained spell of Dundalk possession, as Cork struggled initially to get a foothold in the game.
However, that ended on 16 minutes when Dennehy again found space on the right to pick out Karl Sheppard whose shot on the turn was blocked by the vigilant Brian Gartland.
Dennehy instigated the danger from Cork again four minutes later, forcing Rogers into flapping away his corner.
A third corner from Cork, this time whipped over by skipper John Dunleavy from the opposite side, was then headed wide by Bennett on 23 minutes.
Having thrown the ball straight to a green shirt earlier, Rogers’ distribution was again poor as a clearance from way outside his area on the right was picked up by Garry Buckley. The City midfielder’s attempted shot was well off target, though, as a grateful Dundalk 'keeper scampered frantically back to his line.
Cork were now well in what was developing into an absorbing tussle.
Despite that, the first save of note in the game didn’t come until the 40th minute when McNulty dived to his left to pluck David McMillan's shot from the air.
Dundalk were then forced into a change two minutes before the interval when Sean Gannon had to limp off, O’Donnell coming into central midfield as Shields dropped to right-back.
Kenny's side injected some much needed purpose to their game from the resumption with McMillan's volley bringing a tip-over save from McNulty after Dane Massey went on the overlap to set him up to minutes in.
A minute later, McMillan was guilty of a heavy touch when played in on goal as McNulty raced from his line to gather.
Towell, relatively quiet up till then, brought a save from the Cork keeper on 63 minutes after working a one-two with Finn on the edge of the area.
A fine run from midfield by Horgan then came to nothing for Dundalk as the winger’s cross was gathered by McNulty.
Though better fare than the first 45 minutes had been, the second half also failed to produce a goal as the game went to extra-time.
Two minutes into that, Finn did well to burst in on goal from the left only to see his weak shot comfortably saved.
But it was the second minute of the second half of extra-time that brought the game’s crucial moment.
A terrific surging run down the inside-left channel from Horgan resulted in his cross picking out Towell in the area.
Controlling the low delivery with his right foot, Towell then side-footed home from ten yards with his left to send the massed Dundalk fans at the Havelock Square end goal delirious.
“It’s something you probably dream of,” added Towell.
“If somebody had told me that this was going to happen at the start of the year, I’d have bitten their hand off - score the winner in the cup final.
“It’s just a magical, magical night. And a magical way to end an unbelievable season.”
CORK CITY: McNulty; Dunleavy, Bennett, D. Dennehy, Gaynor; Miller (Healy, 59), O’Connor; B. Dennehy, Buckley, Sheppard (Murray, 101); O’Sullivan (Morrissey, 79).
DUNDALK: Rogers; Gannon (O‘Donnell, 43), Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Shields, Towell; Meenan (Mountney, 77), Finn, Horgan; McMillan (Kilduff, 71).
Referee: Dave McKeon (Dublin).