However, Gamble’s suspension for the game in United Park could mean a start for David Meyler, the recent subject of a £75,000 (95,000) offer from Sunderland.
“He hasn’t played much this season but he’s a good player, who has only just turned 19,” says City boss Alan Mathews. “I’ve spoken to David and his father and we’re trying to keep our best players here. I don’t want to lose him. David is only a young lad but when a club like Sunderland come calling — and they have the Cork connection through Roy Keane and Roy O’Donovan and all this — fine, you have to look at that because you don’t want to deprive anyone of a chance. But we’re also mindful of the fact that he’s a good young player and we want to keep good young players here. And if they do go, they should only go for the right money for themselves and for the club.”
Indeed, rather than shedding players, Mathews is more intent on bolstering his squad.
“We are actively trying to bring additional recruits into the club,” he says. “Okay, John O’Flynn is not as badly injured as we first thought, but with him still out for the foreseeable future and George (O’ Callaghan) gone, we’re down two of the fellows that were part of the first team squad so that needs to be addressed.”
As they prepare to meet the champions tomorrow, Mathews is anxious that his side address the kind of individual errors and lapses in concentration which gave FC Haka the advantage in the UEFA Cup game at Turner’s Cross on Thursday night. But, equally, he is encouraged by the display of character and quality football which saw his team fight back from two goals down to keep the tie in the balance for the second leg in Finland in a fortnight’s time.
“We feel that we can up our performance in many respects,” says Mathews. “There’s a lot of football to be played between now and then but to come back from 2-0 down against a decent side is no mean feat. With a good attitude and good players, you’ve got a chance of doing well in every match.”
Drogheda too have reason to feel confident going into tomorrow’s game, having gained a one-goal advantage in the first leg of their Champions’ League game against FC Levadia. But, says manager Paul Doolin, the champions are fully focused on the visit of their domestic rivals to United Park.
“It’s an important game for us but it is for them too,” he says. “It’ll be a difficult game, it’s never easy against Cork. But we’re at home and we always play to win at home. Sunday won’t be any different.”
Meanwhile, there are two important games near the bottom of the Premier Division today, with UCD hosting Cobh Ramblers at the Belfield Bowl at 6pm and Sligo Rovers at home to Finn Harps in the Showgrounds at 8pm. Second from bottom Cobh go into their game against the Students having been beaten by leaders St Pats but by only the narrowest of margins at St Colman’s Park last week, while Pete Mahon’s side — who are just three points ahead of Ramblers in the relegation zone — are coming off the back of a morale-boosting 2-1 friendly win against Dundee United.
Finn Harps, one point further ahead of UCD and therefore just one clear of the drop, will have a tough task away to Sligo, whose current posting at sixth in the top-flight belies the difficult financial position the club currently faces.