Cork City manager John Caulfield believes there is as much pressure on Shamrock Rovers as there is on his side ahead of the clubs’ meeting at Turner’s Cross on Friday night.
The Hoops travel south with a seven-point lead on Dundalk at the top of the table — though with two more games played — while they are 12 ahead of City. However, their last league win at the Cross came in 2013, the year before Caulfield took charge, and he is interested to see how they deal with the challenge as the hunted rather than the hunters.
“I think, if you’re going to win a league title, you need to come to the teams that can potentially challenge you and take results,” he said.
“At the same time, we’ve done a lot of work this season, some of the results haven’t gone as well as we would have liked but here’s an opportunity for us to bounce back.
“One thing about Rovers the last couple of years coming, particularly last year, they played cagily and got a draw. This year, they’re high-flying and scoring a lot of goals, you imagine they see this as an opportunity to put more distance between us and them.
“You look over the last few years, they haven’t started the seasons well and it’s cost them and ultimately they’ve fallen away. This is the first time since I’ve taken charge that they’ve started the season winning so many games and opening up a lead.
“To win the league, they’ll have to drive on and keep that going, but there’s a long way to go and a lot of football to be played, a lot of pressure to come yet. As we know when we won the league, you might be close to the line but teams are playing out of their skin. We need to be at our best and we know that.”
Defenders Alan Bennett, Seán McLoughlin, and Dan Casey are City’s main injury doubts while Dáire O’Connor remains out following a dislocated shoulder in the win over Bohemians. On-loan striker Matthew Gillam is back in training but won’t be involved as City seek to conjure a response following the 1-0 loss away to Dundalk last week.
Caulfield expects his team to bounce back with a strong performance like the one against Bohemians.
“You’d hope they will,” he said. “At the end of the day, there was a number of lads that didn’t play well last Friday night, we know that and we’ve discussed it and gone through it.
“They know that we don’t take excuses here, when you cross the line you have to perform. I’d certainly be hoping for a better performance, hopefully our fans will be out in huge numbers and right behind the team.”