Cork City aiming to finish the job in fitting fashion
Victory over the reigning champions Dundalk would be enough to clinch title
A win over Dundalk at Turner’s Cross this evening (kick-off 7.20, live on RTÉ2) would be enough to wrap up a third league title for Cork City.
But even if the game goes with recent form and the visitors actually win, it remains difficult to believe that Cork will not be crowed champions at some point over the coming weeks.
It is just that, after a spell in which John Caulfield’s side has taken just six points from six games, it is a little less difficult to believe than it seemed a few weeks back.
As they prepared to face Bohemians at home on the last day of July, the league leaders were unbeaten all season and 17 points clear at the top of the table with two games in hand. That they might clinch their title more than two months before the campaign ended, on August 21st against Finn Harps, seemed entirely plausible. Instead, they are still struggling to edge their way over the finish line.
The “invincibles” tag is, like top scorer Sean Maguire, long gone now and the vastly superior goal difference the 23 year-old striker had helped them to run up has been whittled away to nothing.
Still, they somehow seem certain to be alright, the question being whether they can restore some of the shine that has come off what looked for a long time like being a very special title win.
Beating their biggest rivals for the third time in this campaign would be the obvious way to do that now.
Dundalk have threatened to somehow make a race of it again as the two teams move into the home straight by winning four straight games and scoring 16 goals without reply.
City, by contrast, have just six to show for their last seven and so while Caulfield claims that it makes no difference who the opposition is when the issue is put beyond mathematical doubt, a win over Stephen Kenny’s side this evening, would provide a timely restoration of his side’s sense of superiority.
“It doesn’t matter,” insists Caulfield, himself a member of the club’s 1993 title -winning side, “I just want the lads to go out and give a performance; if we do that, I think we’ll be fine.
“Everyone thinks this is just going to happen,” he continues. “But it doesn’t just happen; you have to earn the right, you have to go the whole way, get over the line and get your hands on the trophy. If you don’t, there are no excuses.”
Maguire’s departure would inevitably come to be recalled a very big reason if things did go that badly wrong although even without him City still should have been good enough to win some of the games they have lost over the last few weeks.
None of that matters now, their manager knows: they must simply get on with it and Caulfield will be relieved to have just just about everybody bar John Dunleavy available for selection.
“They have to win,” he says. “If we win, we win the league and if we draw, we’re a big step closer. Either way, it’s an intriguing game.”
It’s that’s alight.