Cork City manager John Caulfield expects squad players to be clamouring for inclusion against Limerick on Saturday after the team he sent out against Shamrock Rovers were convincingly beaten in Tallaght on Monday night.
“I keep saying with the lads at the moment that there’s no guarantee of anyone’s position,” he said.
“We’ll review everything over the next couple of days but, certainly, all the boys that didn’t play will say, ‘John, I need to be in, that wasn’t good enough,’ and it wasn’t.”
The 3-0 defeat brought City crashing back down to earth after the high of their 1-0 win over Dundalk at Turner’s Cross.
“While Friday night the lads took the plaudits, on Monday night we were second-best by a long way,” said the City boss. “It’s a learning experience. There are a lot of young fellas coming up and they’re doing great but Monday opened their eyes.
“Consistency will decide if players are going to be good enough at this level. There are no excuses. We have to get our act together for Saturday, which is the most important game now.”
Despite the loss, City remain level in points at the top of the table although Dundalk hold a superior goal difference.
“Whether we won or didn’t on Friday or Monday the team are still in a good position,” Caulfield observed. “We still have a lot to do, we know that, and it can be difficult for younger players but, at the same time, some of our older players didn’t do well either. You can prepare and warn and show strengths of other teams but you have to be ready on the night to go from the start. That first 20 minutes, we weren’t in the game and it was effectively over.”
Gearóid Morrissey is a concern ahead of the visit of Limerick to Turner’s Cross after incurring an injury of the kind which Caulfield reckons is almost inevitable with the level of fixture congestion this season.
“He hurt his groin near the end,” he said, “it’s wear and tear. Friday-Monday-Friday-Monday, it’s in for the season. You need to go and ask the FAI what’s going on and if they’ll call meetings with the clubs and the managers and get this sorted out for next season.
“You are going to have a lot more injuries and we’ve also got Dundalk and Rovers back-to-back. You look at the crowd on Monday — if that was a Friday, it was double the crowd.
“Everyone is suffering. We’re trying to promote the game and make it better, but you can’t do it Friday-Monday-Friday. Friday night is when people want to go to games. We have to make it as accessible as possible.”
Stephen Bradley has seen his management of Shamrock Rovers come in for some ferocious criticism this season but, after their uplifting victory over the champions, the Hoops boss insisted he always believed a display like this was within his team’s grasp.
“The way we play, we’ll create chances, we just need to take them,” he said. “There are going to be other nights where we don’t score and someone might hit us in the last minute but we are not going to change what we are doing and where we are going.
“Two bad results in five days and the world ended for people. We had a look at it and knew the mistakes we made and that we just needed to go back to what we are good at.”
While Graham Burke’s early wonder-goal was the highlight of a man of the match performance, Bradley had special words of praise for one of his most criticised players, goalkeeper Kevin Horgan, who put in an outstanding display.
“He was brilliant,” the manager enthused. “A lot of people have looked for an easy target: A young boy in goal, let’s jump on it, but the last couple of weeks he’s shown unbelievable character. He stood up to it when a lot of players who were older with more experience would have folded. People were coming for him but we knew what he was and we needed him to stand up to it and he has, he’s been a different class.”
And Bradley didn’t disagree with Caulfield’s assertion that Rovers can still get back in the title hunt.
“We’re a team that can go on a run that can get back in with the top two or three, 100%,” he said. “We had a bad five days and everyone jumped on it and thought it was the end of the season. But there’s a long way to go and we can go on a run. Hopefully the last two games are a start.”
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