Boss Caulfield calls for final push in derby
The league title is almost within their grasp but Cork City have no intentions of settling for that alone and relinquishing their status as FAI Cup holders as a medal-hungry squad chase the double.
It’s been a difficult period for Cork, as the swagger which carried them through the first chunk of the season, with 20 wins and a draw from 21 league games, has vanished.
A chance to seal the league title on Monday, by beating reigning champions Dundalk, was lost as City could only draw 1-1, so the chase for first league crown since 2005 goes on to Dublin in 15 days’ time and a game away to Bohemians.
But boss John Caulfield says he takes positives from the side’s display in that Dundalk game, hopeful the team can carry that into tonight and their FAI Cup semi-final at home to Limerick.
“The performance on Monday night was the kind of performance that we have given for most of the season. That is our level and we can do that, so for the remainder of the season we need to keep it up and kick on,” says the City manager.
“Some of the lads might have lost a little bit of form but Monday night proved that we are back on track and that is what we needed.”
As well as the league campaign, Cork have been busy in the other competitions: tonight’s semi at home to their Munster rivals will be their 11th cup game of the season.
The league is their driving force and Caulfield and his side are determined to end that wait for a league title and finish off the job, though, of course, the plan was for them to have been crowned already: their run of form earlier in the season, and a slump for Dundalk, could have seen Cork confirmed as champions as early as August, but instead they are heading into October with the league still not secure.
But the Cup is a big deal for Cork as well, especially as a final appearance would guarantee them not only a day out in Dublin 4 but a clash with one of their great rivals.
The Cork-Dundalk battles have defined the League of Ireland year for the last few seasons, and those tussles have been tense.
But should Dundalk lose their semi-final on Sunday at home to Shamrock Rovers, and assuming Cork win at home tonight, that would set up a Rovers-Cork final, and that fixture this season has been very contentious, with red cards, disputed goals and bitter spats in the media between the two managers.
A Cork-Rovers final would attract a good crowd to the final at Lansdowne Road in November, and the existing tension between the camps would allow the media give it a build-up unlike anything in recent years.
Caulfield can’t let his players get too far ahead and must ask them to focus on winning tonight.
“The games are so big now; the adrenaline will be there and every player will want to play,” adds the Cork boss.
“This is an opportunity to get to a cup final; we have been in the last two and we are the holders, so we want to get to the Aviva again.
“We are at home, with our supporters behind us, and we are determined to get back to the Aviva.”
Cork have fitness concerns over Steven Beattie, Kieran Sadlier, Alan Bennett and Stephen Dooley.