You have to go back 88 days to find the last time Cork City ended an SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match with three points. Summer has come and gone since, and alarmingly, a mini-revival by Finn Harps in the meantime has left the 2018 league and cup runners-up looking over their shoulders.
That’s why tonight’s Munster derby against Waterford — another of the league’s underachievers — at the RSC takes on added significance.
Eoghan Stokes wasn’t part of the City squad the last time the sides met. Last month, he was kicking back, enjoying the mid-season break from duty with Derry City, when an unfamiliar number popped up on his phone.
“I was on holidays over in France and then I got a call off John Cotter to say that he was interested in bringing me down to Cork,” he explains.
“He said he liked me as a player. He said that they need some goals and thought I could contribute.” Cotter had been aware of the former Ireland U19, with City linked with a move for Stokes during John Caulfield’s tenure.
And with Graham Cummins leaving, an opportunity has arisen to fill the void. Now the former Leeds United man is determined to stake a claim.
Having spent last season at Bohemians after leaving Elland Road, Stokes made the move to Derry City at the start of this season. Despite enjoying life at The Brandywell, the chance of more game time proved too attractive.
“When Cork come with a chance to play regularly, you can’t turn that down,” he says.
The dramatic nature of last weekend’s FAI Cup escape to victory for the Leesiders — a penalty shootout win at Cabinteely — has lifted spirits down south. On the injury front, Mark O’Sullivan could feature after a head injury but Conor McCarthy is a doubt.
City have lost their previous two league meetings with the Blues. The sides last met back in April, when goals from Shane Duggan and Zack Elbouzedi gave the Blues a 2-0 win. Elbouzedi misses out tonight through injury.
Dundalk get back to domestic business after their European campaign ended at the hands of Slovan Bratislava in Tallaght on Tuesday. They host a Finn Harps side who have now won three league games on the bounce. Harps boss Ollie Horgan said: “Our lads are realistic to know that it is going to take some performance from us and a lot of luck to even get a point.”
Recent signing Neil Farrugia won’t be available for Shamrock Rovers’ trip to Derry City, but Stephen Bradley can call on Ireland international Graham Burke.
UCD keeper Conor Kearns and Bohs skipper Derek Pender will be on the missing list tonight when the sides meet at Dalymount Park. Both remain suspended as a result of ugly post-match clashes with marred the Students’ win at the UCD Bowl.
Liam Buckley is back at his old dominion as Sligo Rovers face St Patrick’s Athletic. Saints boss Harry Kenny will be without Mikey Drennan, Ciarán Kelly, and Conor Clifford through suspension, while Chris Forrester is a doubt through illness.
In the First Division, Bray host Cobh Ramblers, Cabinteely meet Galway United, Drogheda United and Wexford clash at United Park, while Limerick meet Athlone Town.
All matches kick off at 7.45pm, except Dundalk v Finn Harps (8pm).