Alan Bennett: ‘I’d like to play next season. It’s too good a group at the moment to step out of it’

If he’s showing a cool exterior, Alan Bennett reckons it might be because he’s coming straight from an ice bath.

“You have to stay in for 10 minutes,” he says. “If my teeth start chattering, that’s what’s happened.”

His teeth don’t chatter. Bennett looks as composed off the pitch as he has on it this season. The 35-year-old former Ireland international has been in exceptional form at the heart of a Cork City defence which has conceded just four goals all season en route to nine league games in a row.

“Four goals conceded in the league. It’s been good,” says Bennett.

“But it’s brilliant watching our front three — or front five, I suppose at the moment — getting after teams. It’s just a real pleasure to watch as a Cork City fan.”

In such circumstances, there’s always a desire for more, and the former Brentford, Wycombe and Wimbledon man has that hunger.

“I’d like to play on next season. but that’s up to John (Caulfield),” says Bennett.

“I think it’s just too good a group at the moment to step out of it. I think John will have to sit me down and tell me it’s over. I do like to think I’ll play again next season. I can’t really see myself retiring myself. it’s so good at the moment.

“We’ve just done a five a side and Seanie Maguire, Karl Sheppard, Gearóid Morrissey — they’re all at the peak of their game, I’m just trying to keep up, it’s brilliant.”

City face St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park tomorrow night on the back of the hottest streak in the club’s history, a run of form that has seen them go nine points clear of champions Dundalk at the top of the Premier Division.

Bennett has been at the heart of the action, enjoying a burgeoning partnership with Ryan Delaney, the 20-year-old Wexford man on loan at Leeside from English Championship side Burton Albion.

“Ryan Delaney has been brilliant,” says Bennett. “He asks questions, he’s a great listener, he wants to know my opinion on things. He’s still quite young but he’s a good athlete. This is a great move for him.”

Bennett admits it was “strange” at first to see the end of his partnership with Kenny Browne, who left City days before the start of the new campaign for Waterford.

“It was strange. I felt we were going from strength to strength to strength, we ended up winning the cup final, I felt there was more come for us as a partnership.

“It was weird for a couple of days but listen, in the back of my mind I knew ‘who am I to tell a player not to go home and play for his home club?’ There was never any animosity. I spoke to him twice on the topic. I just said do what you have to do.”

City manager Caulfield has been delighted with his centre-back pairing considering the loss of Browne.

“We lost the best centre-back in the country in Kenny Browne on the eve of the season. Football-wise, you look at the cup final performance last year, a fantastic player.

“Very few people have noticed that because of the start we’ve had. Ryan came in and has been incredible. He’s a brilliant guy, I can’t get him off the training pitch and he loves it here.

“He’s lucky to have Bennett beside him because he’s made him a better player. For him to have fitted in so quickly was brilliant.”

Delaney’s loan from Burton is only until June, and Caulfield reiterated that it will be up to Burton boss Nigel Clough whether he stays on at Leeside beyond that time.

“Burton are fighting to survive in the Championship. They’ve been very good to us and we said we’d park it until June.

“At the moment I’m assuming they’ll take him back, Ryan, I’d say, would like to finish out the season. In a month’s time, we’ll have a clearer picture.”

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