Football in the Republic of Ireland has been a capital affair for much of the last decade as the Premier Division title has been won by Dublin clubs in each of the last eight seasons.
North v South
But that is going to change this term as Cork City FC and Derry City FC - the most northerly club in the country - go head-to-head in a dramatic final game of the season. The game will decide the destiny of the 2005 title, with all the Dublin sides out of contention.
Derry, managed by former Bohemian FC boss Stephen Kenny, make the 450km trip south to Cork knowing they need only a point to secure their first title since 1997. Home side Cork are a point behind in second place and, backed by a sell-out crowd of 7,500, will be chasing some much-needed silverware. Their last league success came back in 1993.
'An amazing night'
"It's amazing that it's come down to this, first against second on the last day of the season," said Derry's long-serving captain and defender, Peter Hutton. "But it's the way it should be. Cork and Derry are the two best teams in the country, they play the most attractive football and they have the best supporters in the league, it's going to be an amazing night. I just hope we can do the business."
For Cork, a title win would be the culmination of a natural progression: two seasons ago they finished third, last term they were runners-up. And on their form in the first half of the season, Damien Richardson's side looked well-placed to go on and lift the title. But while Cork have stumbled in the last few games, Derry marched on: Cork took just 17 points from the last nine games, Derry 24.
That has left the Kenny-managed Derry as real candidates, a most unexpected turn of events. The Ulster club were rank outsiders to win the title at the start of the campaign, as City had been battling with relegation for the previous three seasons, but Kenny has created a minor miracle to leave the team on the verge of an unlikely triumph.
"There is pressure on us to deliver as everyone expects us to win, but it's good pressure," said Cork midfield player Joe Gamble. "If you can't deal with the pressure and enjoy an occasion like this then you shouldn't be in football. We will have a massive crowd behind us, we're playing with confidence and I feel we can win this game. It's a real cup final, for us it's winner takes all. Now we just have to go and win the match."
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