Karl Sheppard will join Dundalk at the end of the season

DFC | Sheppard on his way to Oriel as Kenny captures striker from Leeside

26-year-old set to join Lilywhites at the end of the season

After helping Cork City win the SSE Airtricity League title, Karl Sheppard will spend next season trying to wrestle the crown away from Leeside after agreeing to join fierce rivals Dundalk.

Sheppard has been a vital cog in John Caulfield’s Cork side, featuring in all 33 of their league games and scoring nine goals — two of those in the victory against Dundalk at Turner’s Cross in March.

Caulfield, however, will have to plan without the services of the 26-year-old when Cork set about trying to retain their title in 2018.

After weeks of speculation in the national media, Dundalk Sport understands that Sheppard has made the decision to join the Lilywhites and relocate closer to north Dublin when his contract expires at the end of this season.

A native of Portmarnock, Sheppard played with Shelbourne as a teenager before moving to Everton in a deal reported to be worth €150,000 in 2007.

After a frustrating time on Merseyside, he returned home and made his League of Ireland debut with Galway United — under former Dundalk manager Sean Connor — in 2010.

His exploits in the west earned him a move to Shamrock Rovers the following season and he was part of Michael O’Neill’s team that won the league title and reached the group stages of the Europa League in 2011.

A move back across the water to Reading followed but he failed to make an appearance at the Madejski Stadium and after a loan spell at Accrington Stanley, Sheppard again returned home, rejoining Rovers on loan in 2013, before signing on a permanent basis in 2014.

His three-year spell with Cork City began ahead of the 2015 season when he scored 13 goals in 31 league appearances. In 2016, he followed that up with eight goals in 28 league games, helping the Rebels to victory over Dundalk in the FAI Cup final.

Speaking in October, Sheppard played down speculation linking him with a switch to Dundalk but he will become Stephen Kenny’s first acquisition ahead of a renewed tilt at the title next season.

Ironically, his final appearance for Cork will come against Dundalk at the Aviva Stadium next Sunday when the clubs meet in the FAI Cup final for the third successive year.

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