City have done well on the road to claim a point apiece from Derry and Athlone but a 2-0 home defeat by Waterford sees them trailing the league leaders by seven points after three games.
Cork welcome back veteran Greg O’Halloran, who was sent off in that game against the Suirsiders, but will be missing Dave Warren, who has been ruled out for several weeks after tearing his thigh muscle. Gearóid Morrissey is also still on the injured list but is expected to be available for selection in the near future.
Manager Tommy Dunne was pleased by the point Cork picked up in Lissywoolen but insists that his side are still in the process of “getting our house in order”, as he puts it.
“Our supporters were brilliant in Athlone,” he says. “We had 250 to 300 people, there at least. They created a great atmosphere and really cheered the lads on, so we’re hoping for another decent crowd tonight. The bigger the crowds, the quicker the players will get used to it and then, when the big games do arrive, the crowd won’t have an effect on their preparation.
“Although we are not the Cork City of old, people will still come to Turner’s Cross, think it’s a big name club and perhaps sit back. We’ll just have to be patient, try to play our game and take the opportunities when they arise. We must also be wary of being hit on the break. Three points is the aim every week, especially at home. We know it’s going to be a difficult game and we have to perform to our best but we’re going to try and win it.”
Says club captain Cillian Lordan: “We do have a good group of players but we are after missing an awful lot of training time already. The fact we didn’t really have a pre-season showed against Waterford – they were a lot more organised, a lot stronger than us and you could see that they have been together for awhile – so we were a little bit off the pace in that game.
“Having said that, I don’t think there’s any reason we can’t be up challenging in the top half of the table. If we can go on a decent run before the break or even into the last round of fixtures and be there or thereabouts, it would be a major achievement. Getting promoted or winning the league would be extraordinary. We need everything to go in our favour though because we do have a small squad, and injuries and suspensions will cost us and over the course of the season. It will be very, very difficult at times.”
Certainly, Mervue, struggling with just one point from three games, are determined to put in a good showing at the Cross tonight.
“We are definitely improving and looking forward to this match,” says manager Tom French. “Cork will test us all over the park and we will have to be at our best to come away with something. But team spirit is high and we know we are not far away from where we want to be.”
Tonight’s other First Division games see Derry City at home to Athlone Town (7.45pm) and Finn Harps hosting Limerick (8pm).
Meanwhile, the top two are both in action in the Premier Division tonight with champions Bohemians at home to fourth-placed Sligo Rovers (7.45pm) and St Patrick’s Athletic away to Dundalk (7.45pm).
The match at Dalymount will see former Sligo striker Raffaele Cretaro (assuming he passes a late fitness test) turning out in the Bohs colours and former Bohs man Joseph Ndo making his debut for the Bit O’ Red on his old stomping ground.
Bohs boss Pat Fenlon said: “I’m delighted Joseph is playing in the league. He is one of the best players to play in the league in my time. But I’ll be happy if he is not playing tonight.”
Up in Oriel Park, it’s third against first, as Dundalk play host to St Pats, with the latter’s manager, Pete Mahon, fully aware that this is a tough test of his side’s 100% record to date.
“I was impressed with Dundalk against Shamrock Rovers, they have some very experienced players and will be formidable opponents,” says Mahon. “We will have to be vigilant.”
In tonight’s televised game, Shamrock Rovers travel to Galway United (7.35pm, live on RTÉ2) while, elsewhere, Sporting Fingal host Drogheda United (7.45pm) and UCD are at home to struggling Bray (7.45pm).