Cork City have produced a surprise this afternoon by announcing that Karl Sheppard will remain at the club for two more years, writes Stephen Barry.
The Dubliner has signed a contract with the double league and cup champions only a week after Stephen Kenny hinted the attacker was Dundalk bound.
That was the focus of much pre-FAI Cup final media coverage but Sheppard overcame those rumours to set-up the levelling goal in extra-time and score the first penalty of the shoot-out as City defeated their Louth rivals.
It was speculated to be his last action in a City jersey but John Caulfield has secured his man for two more years.
“I am delighted. I have had a great three years here so far, and to add another two to that is brilliant. I can’t wait for next season, as we go out to try and defend our double,” said Sheppard.
“It has been the best season I have been involved in so far, it was a special, special year. The supporters have been unbelievable; the messages of support I have been getting shows what type of people they are.”
“Last week was a difficult week, but that is in the past now and I am delighted to commit to the club for the next two years. Next season, we need to try and go out and win the league again, try and win the FAI Cup again and we have the Champions League to look forward to. We are going into everything wanting to win.”
Sheppard scored 16 goals for City in 45 games this season – the joint-most appearances among the squad alongside outgoing Burton Albion loanee Ryan Delaney.
Caulfield praised his impact since signing for the 2015 season: “Shep joined us three seasons ago and he has been a phenomenal player for us.
“He played a huge role for us last Sunday and was instrumental in the cup win. I am absolutely thrilled to have him here, we want to keep all of our players. They have won a double, we know how hard it is and we need to be challenging again next year.
“I never doubted Shep; his professionalism is second to none. He gave the performance I expected of him on Sunday and he left everything on the pitch, which our supporters could see.
“I feel he is in his prime, like a lot of the players we have already signed for next year, and I think he will get better and better over the next two years.”
Meanwhile, Greg Bolger has left City to sign for Shamrock Rovers.
Bolger signed off by saying: “I would just like to say a big thank you to the people of Cork for their support over the last two years. It has been a pleasure to play in front of ye all at the Cross.
“A league and two cups (not bad eh). Also want to wish the lads the best of luck for the future, best dressing room I’ve ever been involved in.
“Thanks for the memories.”
On arrival at the Tallaght Stadium, Bolger added: “The words Shamrock Rovers speaks for itself. It’s one of, if not the biggest club in the country and there’s the brand of football that Stephen is trying to play.
“I’ve played against Stephen in the league as well, I know the way he operates. He wants the game played the right way and I’d probably be of the same opinion as him.
“That’s what I’m looking forward to most, getting out there and playing football. It’s a new start here at Rovers.”