John Caulfield has vowed that Cork City will take nothing for granted as they close on the league title, warning the club have been “specialists in coming second”.
If results go their way this weekend, City can win the SSE Airtricity League on Monday night by beating Finn Harps. Firstly, though, they must win against Sligo Rovers at Turner’s Cross tonight and, secondly, champions Dundalk must lose or draw at Derry City on Sunday.
While most observers agree it is only a matter of time before City claim a first title since 2005, the manager is having none of it.
“We’re not there yet; we’ve won two leagues in our history. We had won two FAI Cups up until last year’s win. We’ve been probably specialists in coming second in the history of the club throughout the years. There’s nothing from me about being in a great position, or the players,” says Caulfield.
“Every team that plays us is raising their gam; we know how difficult it is. We’re getting very close, we’re focusing all on Sligo. It’s our last home game for a long time in the league.”
Cork will be determined to make home comforts count tonight, with Robbie Williams expected to recover from injury to face the Bit O’Red. After tonight, Cork face a run of away league dates, at Finn Harps, Shamrock Rovers, Limerick, and Derry.
“No-one understands, unless you’re from here, the travelling involved,” says Caulfield. “Last week was a typical example. Drogheda: Home at 3am in the morning. Shamrock Rovers: Home at 4am in the morning. Bray: 2am in the morning. Three games in a week. Most people from other clubs are home in bed at 11pm.”
Kieran Sadlier will tonight face his old club Sligo for the first time since his €40,000 move in July. Caulfield was delighted to see the former Ireland U21 man break his duck for City last weekend, scoring the winner in City’s FAI Cup win over Bray.
“Kieran’s fitness levels have come up a lot in the last couple of weeks. He got a fantastic goal against Bray. He’s one of the few players in our league who could have scored that kind of goal from the position he was in. We’re back creating chances and we need that on Friday night.”
Karl Sheppard agrees that Sadlier is finding his feet.
“Sadlier was brilliant against Bray,” says Sheppard.
“When he came in, John said he had a bit of strength-and-conditioning to do. Kieran said himself he was surprised at how high the intensity of the training here was. I remember when I came into the club first, Colin Healy was here then, and I remember going in for a tackle and thinking, ‘this is my ball here’, and he comes in through the back of me and just completely cleaned me out. You’re flat on your back, your thinking ‘Jesus, I’m in for a tough day’s training here’. It’s like that ever since.
“No-one really holds back at all. A few times, you can actually come in from a Monday or Tuesday session and it’s as tough as a game.”
Sligo drew 0-0 with Bray last Tuesday and remain in the drop zone going into tonight’s game. Jamie McDonagh returns from suspension but Daniel Kearns is absent with a hamstring problem.
Manager Gerard Lyttle said: “We played well in parts of the game on Tuesday, but we struggled to create enough chances. Ultimately, wins are what we need.
“I thought we were very solid and have been in the league for some games now and that gives me hope that we can get out of trouble, but if we don’t create more clear-cut opportunities, then we’re not going to get three points.
“One point isn’t good enough for the position we’re in and this game [against Cork] is like the Dundalk one where we were written off somewhat. We need to find that fighting spirit from that night. We’ll take the game in stages and we’ll have to take some risks, at times, in the game.
“It’s a place the players have done well in before, we competed well with Cork last time out and were very unfortunate to lose the game in the end, so we go there with belief and with ambition of getting that win we’re chasing.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved