Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley is surprised he won’t see the familiar face of John Caulfield in the opposing dugout at Tallaght Stadium tomorrow.
Bradley believes ex-Cork City manager Caulfield, who parted company with the Rebels at the start of the month, deserved more of a chance to turn fortunes around at Turner’s Cross given what he had done for the club.
“I was surprised by that. I thought he could have been given more time,” said Bradley of Caulfield's departure.
“I thought he earned that for what he had done over the years he was there.
“We know football can be very fickle and things change quickly, but I thought what John had done since in went in, and over the four or five seasons, had been brilliant.
“He had them up there every year, winning leagues and cups.
“Yes, they had a bad start, but I was surprised to see him go so quickly."
Cork have won three of their four games under interim boss John Cotter, while losing the other to leaders Dundalk. Despite their poor start to the season, Bradley remains wary of the talent City have in their ranks.
“They’ve many really good players,” said Bradley, whose side are behind champions Dundalk on goal difference. I think people forget a lot of that team won the double not so long ago.
“They've shown they’re good enough to go anywhere in the country and win a game. They know how to do that. This will be no different as they will fancy themselves coming up here.
“We've got to be ready for the best Cork that's there and respect that.”
Rovers remain without injured midfielders Aaron McEneff, Sean Kavanagh and Sam Bone.
Cork wait on skipper Karl Sheppard who came off with a knock late on in Monday’s 1-0 win at UCD. Midfielder Gearóid Morrissey and defender Dan Casey also need to prove their fitness, though Cian Murphy remains sidelined.
“There’s a good atmosphere around the place at the moment, so hopefully we can take that into Friday night,” said Cotter.
“We’ve won three games out of four and kept three clean sheets. The attitude and the character shown by the players has been very pleasing and they've gained confidence from those games.
“We’ll set up and defend properly but, with the confidence we have at the moment, we will look to implement our own game plan too.
“We will look to try and hurt them. Rovers are in a good place at the moment and we know it will be a tough game, but we will go up there with the belief that we can get something out of the game.” Narrowly ahead of Rovers on goal difference at the top of the table, Dundalk face St Patrick’s Athletic at Oriel Park in the night's other top game.
Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth has John Mountney back from suspension but continues without injured midfielders Robbie Benson and Jamie McGrath. Winger Daniel Kelly faces a fitness check.
Lee Desmond, Conor Clifford and Dean Clarke remain out injured for St Pat’s.
Meanwhile, due to call-ups to Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland under-21 squad for the Toulon Tournament, the SSE Airtricity League has postponed the following six Premier Division: Derry City v UCD, Waterford v Shamrock Rovers (May 31); UCD v Bohemians (June 8); Cork City v Waterford (June 9); Derry City v Waterford, Dundalk v UCD (June 14). New dates will be announced in due course.
Due to the Waterford v Shamrock Rovers postponement, RTÉ2 will instead now broadcast live St Patrick’s Athletic v Cork City next Friday night.
Tomorrow night’s fixtures (7.45 unless stated) Premier Division Bohemians v Sligo Rovers Derry City v Finn Harps Dundalk v St Patrick’s Athletic Shamrock Rovers v Cork City (8.0) Waterford v UCD First Division Bray Wanderers v Wexford Drogheda United v Galway United Limerick v Cabinteely Shelbourne v Cobh Ramblers.