Cork City may look abroad to bolster ranks for title defence
Champions seek way to offset potential loss of number of players from their squad
Cork City manager John Caulfield celebrates title triumph. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Cork City manager John Caulfield, who signed a two-year extension to his contract yesterday, says he accepts that some of the club’s championship-winning side will depart next week when the cup final is out of the way but insists the move to a more professional structure at Turner’s Cross will allow him to improve the squad for next season.
Conor McCormack, Jimmy Keohane and Gearóid Morrissey are among the players to have already committed themselves to the club’s title defence while Alan Bennett and others have only to finalise deals that have been broadly agreed.
However, Greg Bolger, Karl Sheppard and Steven Beattie have all been linked with moves away. Sheppard has been widely reported to be on his way to the club’s opponents at the Aviva Stadium this Sunday, Dundalk.
Caulfield is determined not to allow the reports to become a distraction.
“This is cup final week, and all my energy and focus is on this game,” he says. “Nothing will sidetrack me and this squad. There has been talk about lots and lots of players going back a long, long time. Conor McCormack was going somewhere else a few weeks ago as well. So I’m very focused on this week.
“Do I expect changes? Of course. We lost Sean Maguire and Kevin O’Connor two months ago. They need to be replaced. So it is going to be an overhaul and a bit changing. But I still believe the majority of our players will stay next year.
“We would be disappointed as league champions [if they weren’t] as we have everything here: the supporter base, the facilities, the coverage we get. You’d be disappointed if players didn’t want to stay at the club when they see the work that has gone on; they can see the whole Cork City environment, as I call it. There is more of that to come.”
He will be selling that view to would-be replacements, although he acknowledges that he will face stiff competition for the very best players around the league from Stephen Kenny at Dundalk and others. The pool of players who have what it takes to help a club deliver titles is small, and as competition for them at home increases, he anticipates a significant growth over the longer term in the number of players being brought in from overseas as the clubs progress to the stage where they can offer more and players can see the potential upside of playing in Ireland and perhaps using it as a stepping stone.
“There’s quite a number of players out there are professional in terms of 38-week or 40-week or 42-week [contracts]. But the number that can play every week and can guarantee you the league title, that number is quite small. We had players that we thought would be very good but it didn’t work out for them. And when you go out and watch players that you’re hoping to attract to your club, you’re wondering can they perform week in week out in front of 5,000 people and take the criticism, take the applause, and deliver every week.
“Attracting players from outside has been very hard, and the reason we haven’t been able to do is the wage structure. You go down a slippery road if you end up paying players a lot more. Ultimately we won’t be in that market. We have what we have and we know where we’re at.
“Going forward, though, I would hope that if our club can manage cash-flow – which I think they can going down the road – it will allow you to attract foreign players. We need to attract foreign players and a lot of foreign players want to come in. They want to get to the UK and we’re a great route for them.
“If I’m being honest, I’m sure other managers have been active in that market and the wages of a lot of these guys are higher than where we’re at but I think next year and over the next couple of years we will have an influx of foreign players. You can see that we can attract some. Dundalk can. Rovers can.”