Figures released yesterday by the FAI show the runaway leaders also dominating the attendance charts — amid a reported overall increase of 17% per game across the two divisions compared to the same period last year — with City drawing the biggest average attendance (4,694), biggest individual match attendance (6,746, v Dundalk at Turner’s Cross) and the biggest total attendance (23,468) in the league. On the pitch, Cork have opened up a 12-point lead and this evening will be aiming to make it 12 wins out of 12 in the league as they welcome the side they beat 1-0 on the opening night of the season.
“Every week throws up different challenges for us and we are well aware of what a fantastic job Ollie Horgan has done at Finn Harps over the last few years,” says City boss John Caulfield. “Harps were everyone’s favourites to go down last year and Ollie arguably could have got manager of the year for the job he did there. Last season, they were a well-organised, resilient side but they have added attacking options.
“This year, Harps have won away to Pat’s and Derry, and also beaten Sligo, so they are in a good mid-table position and they are upsetting the odds again.
“We know they will play on the counter attack and we will have to be at our best to pick up the three points.”
While Garry Buckley and Alan Bennett are both set to miss out for Cork, Harps boss Horgan is having to manage something more like a full-blown injury crisis — as well as the loss through suspension of Barry Molloy — for the game at Turner’s Cross.
“We normally have 18 names for the squad but we went to Bohs with 16 players and now we are missing Eddie Dsane and Barry Molloy so that would make it 14,” says Horgan, who admits it makes facing a Cork team he admires even tougher. “Cork have been a great side and if Dundalk hadn’t been there then they could be going for four league titles in a row instead. John Caulfield has done a great job. Season on season, Cork have got better. Nobody gives us a chance going down to Turners Cross but we’ll give it everything and see where that brings us.”
Bray Wanderers, beaten 2-1 by Cork last Friday, take on troubled St Patrick’s Athletic while champions Dundalk travel to Tallaght to face Shamrock Rovers (8pm).
“We probably should have got more out of the game up there early in the season,” said Rovers first team coach Glenn Cronin. “Dundalk know there wasn’t much in it on the day and if we can get those levels tomorrow which I’m sure we can, we’ll cause them problems.”
Bohs could have Dinny Corcoran back for the trip to Derry. Galway are at Drogs.
In the First Division, leaders Cobh Ramblers are the first opponents to travel to second from bottom Athlone Town since confirmation that the midlands club is being investigated over betting irregularities surrounding their 3-1 defeat to Longford last week.
Stephen Henderson’s Ramblers side went top last week thanks to Karl Caulfield’s stunning winner at Shelbourne, and Henderson says his squad are there on merit. “The character of these young lads up in Tolka Park was incredible, I’m so proud of them.”
Bray Wanderers v St Pat’s, Carlisle Grounds; Cork City v Finn Harps, Turner’s Cross; Derry City v Bohs, Maginn Park; Drogheda Utd v Galway Utd, United Park; Shamrock Rovers v Dundalk, Tallaght (8pm).
Athlone Town v Cobh Ramblers, Athlone Town Stadium; Cabinteely v Longford Town, Stradbrook; UCD v Wexford, UCD Bowl; Waterford v Shelbourne, RSC.
Games kick off at 7.45 unless indicated.