Kevin O’Connor believes Cork City’s home form will be the X factor which can bring the league title to Leeside.
The defender scored a stunning free kick in City’s impressive 3-0 win over Dundalk in the President’s Cup, the curtain raiser to the new League of Ireland season.
And the former Ireland U21 international reckons making the most of home comforts can see Cork wrest the title from the four-in-a-row chasing Lilywhites.
“I think a bit of our home form let us down last year — we lost to Sligo aand drew with Bohs — in two successive weeks, and we can’t afford to do that,” said O’Connor.
“Our home form is the one we need to make sure is top notch. If we keep winning at home, we get the fans, and if the fans get behind us I think we can beat anybody.”
While beating Dundalk was “psychologically” important, the Wexford man knows the real business begins next Friday night, with City making the long trip to Ballybofey to face Finn Harps.
“It’s always important to beat your main rivals, psychologically for the team, for new lads coming in to show that we can beat them, it’s always nice to set a benchmark but we’re not taking anything for granted.
"The big one is Finn Harps away. We want to start the season on the right course. We’ll keep it going for next week and hopefully better again.
“Everyone is focused on one goal, and that’s winning the league.”
City manager John Caulfield was naturally delighted with Friday’s win over Dundalk, with last season’s top scorer and cup final hero Seanie Maguire on the scoresheet, along with O’Connor and substitute Karl Sheppard.
And while defender Kenny Browne’s decision to leave the club has left a sour taste, Caulfield insists the club is only looking forward.
“There’s passionate players here who want to win and I always say if you don’t have a happy squad you’ve no chance.
“While I’m disappointed — Kenny did very good for me last year — ultimately his head was turned since Christmas. Sometimes you’ve got to make that decision and move on.
“The fans liked him, and I was mad about him, but at the end of the day you deal with it and move on.
“Being honest the most important match is next Friday night going to Finn Harps. It’s a brutal game to go into.”
Dundalk begin their campaign against Stephen Bradley’s Shamrock Rovers and Caulfield is adamant tthe Lilywhites will be quickly over the losses of stars Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle — now both at Preston — and Ronan Finn, now at Rovers.
“I don’t see transition in Dundalk, they’re a fantastic team. The bulk of the team they had has three league medals — Michael Duffy is the only player who started who hasn’t got a league medal.
“Bar Daryl (Horgan), really, because he turned into a very special player — Dundalk still have the boys who won all their medals.
“They know the real action starts next Friday.”
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