After two decades in the professional game, Alan Bennett has learned the value of perspective.
So when asked if Cork City’s stop-start early form, which sees them 15 points behind league leaders Shamrock Rovers after losing two league games on the bounce, is a “slump” or a “crisis”, he takes stock.
“I wouldn’t use either of those words,” says Bennett.
“Brexit is a crisis. It’s early days in a young group still finding its feet. In 20 seasons I’ve always had some sort of ‘dip’ — I suppose there’s your word.
"When it comes, you never know but when it comes the focus is to get out of it and get going as quick as you can.”
Like City’s season, Bennett has been somewhat stop-start himself this year, as injuries and time take a toll on the former Ireland international defender but he expects to be fit and available if called upon for tonight’s clash with St Patrick’s Athletic (Turner’s Cross, 7.45pm).
“I feel good. It’s kind of unchartered errors in terms of how I deal with myself and how I train.
"It’s a real trial and error thing and it’s frustrating at times for (City boss) John (Caulfield), and I get that.
"I’m not the long term answer, I know that as well and it’s about blooding in new ones and bedding me in when needed as well.”
At 37, Bennett is the oldest outfield player at City, — 38-year-old keeper Mark McNulty is the daddy of the group — and the club captain has this season started passing on his knowledge to even younger generations. Bennett has taken a coaching role wtih City’s U13 side in the inaugural season of the U13 National League. He didn’t need to fall in love with football again but let’s just say it’s added a new spark.
“It’s been brilliant, they’re a really good group. In terms of the age group I think it’s the perfect time.
“They really want to learn, it’s a special age, and I think it’s the right age to get behaviours in, values in.
"They love football and it refreshes that in me too, to be honest. They love all the things that become maybe mundane after 20 years.
“They’re a great group, some travel two hours from all over Cork, they want to be at this club.
"Colin Healy is doing an incredible job with the academy. There’s that pathway there now.”
Mikey Drennan scored the winner for Pat’s from the spot when the sides met on opening night at Inchicore but he is suspended this evening.
Meanwhile, Jack Byrne of Shamrock Rovers has been named SSE Airtricity League/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month for March.
The attacking midfielder was instrumental as the Hoops won five of their six Premier Division games and also earned a call-up to the senior Ireland squad for the recent Euro 2020 qualifiers with Gibraltar and Georgia.
“I wouldn’t be here talking about being called up for Ireland or getting this award if it wasn’t for how good we’ve been doing this season,’ Byrne said.
Rovers will be looking to maintain momentum against Waterford at Tallaght this evening (8pm).
Waterford will be without injured defender Kenny Browne. “We were well beaten last week (4-1 at UCD),” said boss Alan Reynolds.
“The players were disappointed but we have to get going again and we know we’ve got to be better than that.”
Champions Dundalk head to Sligo Rovers (7.45pm) looking to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat at St Patrick’s Athletic.
“Sligo Rovers away is always a tough game. We are looking forward to putting things right,” said Lilywhites keeper Gary Rogers.
Sligo drew at Oriel Park on the opening night of the season but will be without former Dundalk man Ronan Murray, suspended following his red card last week against Bohs.
Collie O’Neill’s UCD host Derry City on the back of a brilliant win over Waterford.
“We played some brilliant football, created some great chances and then took them very well when they came. We will be looking to keep up our good form,” said O’Neill.
Second-placed Bohs will be without suspended defender Rob Cornwall at bottom side Finn Harps tonight (8pm).
In the First Division (all 7.45pm), Cobh Ramblers will be without suspended defender Charlie Lyons for the trip to face Galway United.
Limerick can go top by beating Wexford at the Markets Field, Cabinteely will have designs on the summit themselves as they host Athlone Town while Drogheda United host Shelbourne as both sides also look to leapfrog leaders Longford.