Cork City have been dealt a massive blow with the news club captain Johnny Dunleavy is set to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Dunleavy suffered the injury after falling heavily in last Friday night’s 4-1 victory over Limerick at Turner’s Cross. It is the latest injury to torment the Donegal man, who was enjoying a fine run of form this season, and even chipped in with a couple of goals for the league leaders.
“The indications aren’t good, contrary to what we thought after the match,” said City boss John Caulfield yesterday. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t look good. It looks like he’s going to be out for quite a while, so we’re just waiting for confirmation on that, which is a terrible blow to Johnny. That’s the way it is.”
The injury to Dunleavy — which does not appear to be an aggravation of an existing injury — mirrors the unfortunate defender’s injury which ruined his 2016 campaign.
Last year his season came to an end after suffering a knee injury in June. It meant missing out on the rest of the league campaign but also having to take the role of observer during the club’s impressive 2016 Europa League run, and lifting the FAI Cup after a dramatic final win over Dundalk at the Aviva Stadium last November.
“We’re hoping it may not be (as serious) but the indications are it will be and even if it wasn’t, by the time he’d get back, if he was okay but the end of September or the start of October, to start training then, would be too late anyway.
“It’s a desperate blow, he’s been a great player for us but he’s had a number of different injuries, which has been unusual. For him it’s not a good place at the moment, certainly.”
City are entering a crucial phase of the season, as they look to press home their advantage in the Premier Division while they also prepare to embark on their Europa League campaign, starting with a first qualifying round first leg against Estonia’s Levadia Tallinn at 4.30pm Irish time on Thursday June 29, in a match which has been confirmed for Parnu Stadium.
The injury to Dunleavy gives an unwanted headache to Caulfield in defence, as he looks to tie down a deal for centre-back Ryan Delaney, who is on loan at the club from Burton Albion. Delaney missed the win over Limerick after getting injured in the Munster Senior Cup final but is back in training, while Alan Bennett is rated “50/50” to face Derry City in Buncrana on Friday night. “We’ll wait until Thursday, but the big blow is Johnny,” said Caulfield.
“We’re closely watching to see what we can do. There are a few things we are monitoring, the Johnny situation is going to be make it a little bit different. We’re trying in the background to see what’s the best scenarios. If the Ryan scenario is put to bed in the next few days, and we know one way or another, that will make the decision about what way we do things. The deal for Ryan is close. We’d hope in the next few day’s it’ll sort itself out.”
For his part, Delaney, who was last night announced as the SSE Airtricity League Soccer Writers’ Association Player of the Month for May, is looking to return to action against the Candystripes.
“Hopefully I’m back on Friday. All going well, I’ll be back in the thick of things, get a bit of work done this week and on Friday I’ll be ready. I didn’t do much in training last week. It was all about keeping off my ankle, icing it and getting recovery in. So I’m upping it a bit more this week, just getting back on the pitch, back on the grass, and hopefully when Friday comes I’ll be ready to step up on the pitch.
“Yeah, I’m not too used to watching games. I haven’t been injured much in my short career yet. Hopefully I keep it that way in the long run.”
Delaney says his future at Turner’s Cross will be decided “hopefully in the next week”.
“I’m sure there will be something confirmed either way. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. When the two clubs agree, it will be up to me to push.
“But I’ve been enjoying myself here at the moment so hopefully we can keep it that way. When you are young you want to be playing and winning is a bonus. If we can keep the run going for ourselves and keep performing, that would be great.”
It’s clear the Wexford man is enjoying life on Leeside, at the minute, with Cork having just dropped two points out of a possible 54, with an impressive 52 goals scored in their 18 league games to date, and having clocked up another four in the Munster derby win over Limerick.
“The lads are scoring goals, everyone is chipping in,” says Delaney. “The main thing is to keep the run going and keep the winning ways going. On our day we would back ourselves against most teams in this league. On our day we should beat them. Hopefully we put in a good performance on Friday night.”
In winning the award, Delaney was chosen ahead of City team-mate Seán Maguire, who finished second in the voting. while Derry City star Aaron McEneff was third.
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