You’re sitting 18 points clear at the top of the league, you’re unbeaten since the start of the season and you’re entering into European competition with an attractive draw against Levadia Tallinn.
If you’re the manager of Cork City, you must be full of the joys of summer football?
“Yeah, I can see it, from a fan’s point of view,” says John Caulfield. “They’re all excited, and great. And if I had exactly what you started the season out with going into the second half of it, I’d probably be more relaxed but things have happened that have changed that and I suppose some of the dealings are taking longer that you would have hoped.
“It’s probably a bit frustrating you can’t do anything about that but that’s the way it is.”
The season-ending injury to club captain Johnny Dunleavy — “a desperate blow”, says Caulfield — which was confirmed this week, left a cloud around Cork City training at Bishopstown this week but there has been a huge positive heading into tonight’s trip to Buncrana to face Derry City with the news that Ryan Delaney has agreed to stay at the club until the end of the season.
Wexford man Delaney has been a revelation in the heart of the Cork defence since arriving on loan from English Championship side Burton, and such has been his impact, the club have barely noticed the loss of Kenny Browne to Waterford on the eve of the new season. City have only conceded nine league goals so far.
“We are delighted to have extended Ryan’s loan until the end of the season. He came in under the radar before the start of the season and he settled in very quickly, having an immediate impact. He has gone from strength to strength and has become a vital cog in our team, as we can see from the clean sheets we have kept.
“As well as being a key part of our back five, he has also scored important goals for us and everyone can see that he is developing into a tremendous player. To keep him to the end of the season, with our position in the league and Europe coming up, is fantastic news for us. Also, with the disappointing news about Johnny’s injury in mind, it was very important for us to keep Ryan.
“I would like to thank Burton Albion, and Nigel Clough in particular, who have been fantastic to deal with, and I hope it is a relationship that we can build on, because Burton are a really good club to deal with.
“The fact that Ryan came to the club as a player unknown to many people and has just won the Soccer Writer’s Player of the Month award shows how well he has done, and we expect him to kick on now in the second half of the season and have an even bigger impact.”
And now it’s back to basics in Buncrana. Derry suffered a 3-2 defeat against Bray Wanderers last week, but had been on a 10-game unbeaten run. The Leesiders won’t be taking them lightly.
“Friday night is the biggest game of the season. I keep saying the league is halfway through. We’ve put ourselves in a position. The club have won two leagues in 33 years. It’s incredibly difficult for provincial clubs to win the league.
“We’re going into the second half of season and have started well but the most important game is Friday night, have no doubt about that. That’s what our focus is on. Once the European draw came through, we put that to bed. The league is a competition we can win.”
Caulfield says he will be turning his attention to European matters immediately after tomorrow night And at least one new face is likely to arrive at Turner’s Cross, with work ongoing to replace departing star striker Seanie Maguire, while Kevin O’Connor’s future is also in some doubt.
“The calls are still being made, the conversations are taking place,” says Caulfield. “I’m resigned to the fact that’s the way it going to be. I’d imagine in July there’ll be a flurry of activity anyway — with all clubs. There seems to be a lot of discussions going on with a lot of clubs, a lot of things will happen, very quickly.”
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