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.
There are any number of ways of expressing the intimidating size of the task facing Cork City in the second-leg of their Europa League First Round tie against Progres Niederkorn here in Luxembourg this evening, but perhaps the most straightforward is to note that a side which hasn’t scored in its last three competitive games must now score three in one outing to secure an outright win or, failing that, two to extend the life of this tie into extra time.
Cork City will be without Mark O’Sullivan for the daunting second leg of their Europa League tie against Progres Niederkorn in Luxembourg tomorrow, the striker having remained at home to be with his wife who is expecting a baby.
On the face of it, the failure of any of the four League of Ireland clubs to register a win on their first nights of European football this season doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the domestic game but, as ever in the context of the away goals rule, the good — as well as the devil — is in the detail.
The dream beforehand had been of a box-office clash with Rangers but the reality, on an evening when Cork City repeatedly pressed the self-destruct button, was something more like a nightmare as, after a first half in which the home side conceded two goals and also missed a penalty, the resultant 0-2 defeat gives Progres Niederkorn what looks like full control of this Europa League First Qualifying Round tie ahead of next week’s second leg in Luxembourg.
The story goes that Jose Mourinho once hid in a laundry basket to brief his players covertly and get around a matchday suspension, but manager John Caulfield won’t be going to such lengths when Cork City host Sligo Rovers in their SSE Airtricity Premier Division clash at Turner’s Cross this evening (7.45pm).
Will the real Limerick FC please stand up? The question takes on added urgency with the visit of Cork City to the Markets Field tonight, a game which, on paper at least, would have been regarded before the season kicked off as potentially the toughest fixture the home side would face in the opening phase of the 2018 season.
There has been robust discussion around this week’s series on Irish football and the things being done to restore our supply of top talent. It even spilled beyond these shores, from the UK to USA and Sweden to South Africa, with many of the issues raised striking a universal chord.
These are hectic times for Waterford FC. Friday’s First Division win over Athlone Town attracted their biggest crowd of the season at almost 2,000, a fundraiser was held at the greyhound stadium on Saturday and another healthy attendance showed up yesterday at the RSC for the EA Sports Cup game against Cobh Ramblers.
Cork City will give injury concerns Garry Buckley (hamstring) and Mark O’Sullivan (knee) every chance to prove their fitness ahead of tomorrow’s FAI Cup final against Dundalk, but John Caulfield admits that it’s “touch and go” for both players.