John Caulfield has reminded his players that “everything is up for grabs for the FAI Cup final” as the Aviva Stadium showpiece looms large over the rest of the club’s season, while a financial quandary lies just over the horizon.
Cork travel to Derry this evening with the league out of reach but with an FAI Cup final date with champions Dundalk to look forward to on November 4.
While the hunt for a cup three in a row is doubtless foremost in the management’s thinking, the news that the board of Friends Of the Rebel Army Society (FORAS), the shareholder trust which runs the club, is planning to cut costs at the club by €300,000 next season means players could be playing for more than just cup final places in the coming weeks.
Caulfield said this week he had not spoken to the board regarding the €300,000 cutbacks and while he said “everything is on the table”, the manager appears to be preparing for cutbacks, and is resigned to post-season flux.
“We know every year we’re going to rotate five or six players, and it’ll be no different this year,” Caulfield said this week.
You lose some of your better players and some players move on but it’s just a rotation every year. You’re recycling your team every 18 months. I suppose that’s League of Ireland football.
Steven Beattie is ruled out tonight, while Karl Sheppard and Alan Bennett are being monitored and are unlikely to be risked. Captain Conor McCormack misses out through suspension.
Caulfield is holding out hope that Beattie, one of the club’s most consistent performers, will be available for the cup final on November 4.
“Steven is in twice a day doing sessions,” said Caulfield. “Obviously he can’t go flat out at the moment. We’ve Bray [next] Friday and we’re looking at a scenario to bring him back for that game. A week’s time will give a better indication. He’s doing everything he can to get back.
“He’d run through a wall for this club as he’s always done.”
After last week’s win over Limerick at Turner’s Cross, Cork will draft in some of their up-and-coming prospects tonight. “Ronan Hurley has done very well in the last two games and it has been great for him, so it looks like we might give him another start. Cian Murphy will travel with us as well, as will Pierce Phillips and Shane Daly-Bütz,” said the manager.
Mark McNulty has been nursing a knock this week, and Caulfield is very unlikely to risk him on the all-weather surface at the Brandywell.
Instead Peter Cherrie will be chasing a third clean sheet in a row, and if he continues to put in the performances, the Scotsman is hoping to convince the manager to pick him for the final against Dundalk.
I would like to think so,” said Cherrie. “Whatever happens, happens, and Mark and me get on great. If he’s playing, I’ll support him all the way and if I’m playing, I’m sure he’ll be the exact same.
Cherrie would relish playing against his old club Dundalk, where he won a league title in 2014.
“They’ve changed so much in past three or four years but you just know it’ll be a tough game against Dundalk. I suppose there is added motivation with it being Dundalk. People might say it’s getting boring with the last four years with it being Cork Dundalk but I wouldn’t see it that way. It’s the two biggest clubs in the country going for a great prize and there is an added intensity in those games.”
Derry will complete their home schedule against City this evening. “We’re a bit light on the ground with 12 or 13 contracted and five development players in the squad but we’re near enough,” said boss Kenny Shiels.
“I expect Cork to start with near enough their cup final team. Our style of play isn’t a million miles away from Dundalk’s so they will see that as good preparation. It also means it will be a really tough game for us but we’re desperate to finish our home programme on a high.”
Shiels confirmed he is in contract discussions with all the existing players whose deals are expiring this month, and talks will continue in the coming days.