Delaney — a serious doubt for runaway league leaders City’s return to Premier Division action this weekend, as they host Limerick at Turner’s Cross on Friday night — is on the verge of sealing his switch from Nigel Clough’s Championship side Burton Albion.
The positive news on Delaney will be most welcome on Leeside. While City have opened up a yawning gap at the top of the league, the draw for the Europa League on Monday will signal the club’s busiest spell of the season.
It comes as Cork prepare to get used to life without prize asset Maguire, soon to leave for Preston, while cross-channel clubs continue to hawk over other standout stars, with left-back Kevin O’Connor also seemingly destined for Preston.
“With Ryan, it’s close, I would hope that in the next few days it would be resolved,” said Caulfield. “I know I have been saying that for a while but from our side, we can’t do any more. Ultimately he’s a Burton player, we’d like to keep him, but we are not controlling the situation. The player himself is keen to stay here as well.
“There’s ongoing stuff there with Kevin, we don’t want to lose anyone, but you have a situation when you are challenging near the top and being successful that you attract a lot of outside interest, that has been the case. We have to get the best possible deal for the club in the best possible circumstances. We did keep Seanie until the end of July. The next week things will be resolved but no one can officially go until July.”
Maguire’s hat-trick in the 3-0 win over Dundalk at Oriel Park before the mid-season break sent City 18 points clear of their nearest rivals and defending champions. While scoring goals has not proved a problem for City this season, averaging close to three goals a game, the club will badly miss the attacking threat posed by Maguire, the league’s top scorer. Caulfield said yesterday he has identified a striker to replace the free-scoring star.
“I’ve identified a centre-forward to replace Seanie. There’s a couple that want to come, we look at the bigger picture, where they are from, outside circumstances, would they mix into the group we have? There’s quite a few on offer, we’ve met a few; one I felt wasn’t appropriate to come to us. Another one we are thinking about.”
Caulfield confirmed former Dundalk striker Pat Hoban is on City’s radar. The Galway man impressed as he helped the Lilywhites to the Premier Division title in 2014, earning him a move to Oxford Town. However his career has stagnated and the 25-year-old was released by Mansfield Town at the end of the English League Two season.
“Pat did well before he went over with Dundalk,” said Caulfield. “He’s a different type of player to Seanie. Do I think he could do well for us? Yes I think he could. But he’s been away, and things haven’t gone well for him and last year was a particularly disappointing season for him. He had very little game time from Christmas onwards. You wonder, because potentially he looked a better player when he left Dundalk.”
City got back into action on Monday as they blew out some of the dirty diesel before shaking off Wilton United after extra-time to claim the Munster Senior Cup. Delaney picked up a nasty ankle injury and led to fears he could face a long layoff. Those fears were allayed yesterday.
“It was X-rayed this morning, it’s just severe bruising so that’s good. Friday is very tight, we’ll wait until Thursday to see how he is. Certainly he’ll be okay for next week, so have to see how it settles down. There’s no tear or anything.
“Steven Beattie got a knock last night, flared up again last night, so he’s struggling for Friday but he‘s a tough nut, so we gauge it on Thursday. The problem with him with the following week is after that we go into Europe and it’s three games in a week, so we will need everyone there at that stage.”
City go into the second half of the season with a new signing from Munster Senior League champions UCC coming in to challenge for a place in defence. “Sean O’Mahony is signed and can join up with is straight away,” said Caulfield.
Maguire and Delaney meanwhile are both among the six nominations for the SSE Airticity League/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland player of the month award for May, with the shortlist revealed yesterday.
They are joined by Derry duo Aaron Barry and Aaron McEneff, Trevor Clarke of Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic’s Darragh Markey. The winner will be revealed on Friday.