Injury-free Greg Bolger wary of ‘wizard’ Paddy McCourt

Greg Bolger will lead Cork City into the new season free from injuries which left him a frustrated figure last year.

Bolger was part of City’s FAI Cup-winning side last November but struggled to match the early season performances which saw him linked with a move to clubs in Sweden and England.

City open their Premier Division campaign against Finn Harps at Ballybofey tomorrow night (8pm) and Bolger believes those struggles are behind him.

“I was a bit behind in pre-season. I think I’m ready to go on Friday,” said the club’s acting skipper.

Bolger ruptured his ankle in two places against Linfield in the Europa League last July, and the injury dogged the rest of his season.

“I couldn’t train for two months. I was just coming in getting rubs on the ankle and going out playing on the Friday night. It was probably adrenaline getting me through it. You can only do that so long. I should have been out for five or six weeks but I was back in two weeks and getting treatment every day. It was a credit to the physios and a surprise to myself that I was out on the pitch.

“In the European campaign I had some decent performances but afterwards it probably took its toll. My performance levels weren’t as great afterwards as at the start of the year and midway through the year.”

With those ankle problems in the past, the Wexford man is now looking forward to the start of the season. Finn Harps this week added former Northern Ireland, Celtic, Derry, and Shamrock Rovers winger Paddy McCourt. Bolger describes the Derry wing wizard as a “joy to watch”.

“I have played against Paddy McCourt and I’ve been on the end of some bad results against him. He’s probably one of the best players I’ve played against. He’s a joy to watch. When I was 17 or 18, playing at UCD, I remember looking at him thinking ‘oh my God, how good is this fella?’ It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on.

“Harps is always a tough place to go. Last year was a tricky one for us up there, it took a penalty from Seanie to win it for us. It’s going to be tough, we need to get the three points and get out of there.”

City have made some canny signings in the close season but have also lost quality players. They will face former player Danny Morrissey in Ballybofey tomorrow night, while Bolger also laments the loss of Kenny Browne, who has left the Leesiders for his native Waterford.

Bolger played alongside him at St Pat’s as well as City.

“Kenny was probably the best centre-half in the league last season. It’s going to be weird not being out on the pitch with him. I’ve been with him the last five years, last year I thought he was probably our best player bar Seanie Maguire. I don’t think he had a bad game all year. So he is a big loss.”

While City start on the road tomorrow, the mantra from Turner’s Cross in pre-season has been all about making the most of home advantage when it comes their way. Our home form, that’s where the league was won and lost last year,” says Bolger.

“We didn’t beat Sligo once last year, we drew with them once and got beaten by them twice, we dropped points at home to Wexford, Bohs — those games were like the Alamo, we should have scored, we had the chances, we just didn’t take them.”

So maybe he’ll start taking more chances himself, having scored just one in the league last year?

“The lads know how I strike the ball in training so I’m better off passing the ball,” he laughs. “If I can add a few goals to the team, great. Last year I was more the sitting midfielder, this year we might rotate it and mix it up.”

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