“We knew it was going to be tough,” said the Dubliner. “I thought Bluebell were the better team over the 90 minutes. But we were by far the better team at home, so it’s swings and roundabouts. We had the chances to win the game at home and the one chance we got this time we took it well.”
For Dunne, the narrow nature of the win highlighted the fact that, while Cork City were nominally the higher-ranked team, his predominantly young charges were less battle-hardened than their Leinster Senior League opponents.
“People probably don’t realise it but a lot of the Bluebell players would have a lot more experience than our team,” he observes. “Looking at some of our lads, it’s 14 games into the league, we’ve played two cup games, and they were hitting a wall. We’re delighted just to get through to the break, eight points off second with a game in hand and still in the cup – at the start of the year, where we’ve come from, if that had been offered to you, you’d have bitten the hand off somebody.”
With the understandable jubilation surrounding Cork’s brush with extinction as a club having subsided, it’s back to something more like business as usual on Leeside, with critical voices to be heard complaining about Dunne’s 4-5-1 formation. But the manager argues that the system is not as rigid or defensive as it might sometimes appear, especially when – as against Bluebell – City are under the cosh and the lone frontman is left isolated for long periods.
“People always say when they see one through the middle that’s it’s 4-5-1 but it’s not,” the manager insists. “When we attack it’s a 4-3-3 system. And what I’ve been looking for when we’re at full strength is that we stay at a 4-3-3. UCD are playing the same system, so are Sporting Fingal, and people don’t say the same thing to them.
“When we’re defending, you expect players to get behind the ball and do things right. But then when you do get the ball forward, you’ve got to try and get your two wide players to support quickly. With this system, it gives you an extra man in midfield and you’re trying to retain possession to give the wide players an opportunity to get forward. So you end up with three up front – which is not exactly a defensive system.”
Dunne hopes add to his squad during the break, a task made all the more urgent by the regrettable loss of veteran Dave Rogers, who has been forced to cut his ties with Cork because of family and work commitments.
“We miss his experience obviously but hopefully now in the break we’ve got a number of players coming in and that’ll strengthen us back up again,” says Dunne.. “We’re looking mainly at the Munster Senior League and we hope to add two or three more that I have pencilled in, experienced players too, which will stand to us for the run-in.”
And the goal for the remainder of the campaign? “For the club, the single most important thing is stability,” says Dunne. “But, at the end of it all, if it’s there to have a go (at getting promoted), we might as well have a go. We’re happy enough with how we are at the break although, possibly, we could have picked up more points than we did. But, again, you probably get what you deserve because our preparation wasn’t right at the start of the season. It has been tough for us but we’ve kept going, we’ve got this far and now we can’t rest on our laurels. We’ve got to get more players in and try to get more out of the players who are here. It’s a never-ending battle. Am I enjoying it? Yes, I am. I know the crowd gets frustrated but I really think the time to judge us will be at the end of the season.”