Having experienced FAI Cup final disappointment at the Aviva Stadium last season, John Caulfield believes his best ever Cork City squad can once more stay in the hunt for trophies right until the end of the 2016 season.
With champions and cup holders Dundalk a formidable obstacle in their way in the league, and Shamrock Rovers away in a testing FAI Cup quarter-final tonight, that quest is demanding.
But City manager Caulfield feels his team is good enough to win something this year.
“Since I’ve taken over, this has been the best squad we’ve had,” he said ahead of their trip to Tallaght Stadium.
“We believe that we can win something this year and that’s why we come in here every day and work as hard as we do.
“We believe the title race will go right to the wire. The cup is the cup and it’s all about performing on the day.
“We want to win trophies. We need to hang in there until the end of the season and see if we can do that.
“I believe that, with this squad, we can.
“I believe this team are good enough.”
Though captain Greg Bolger returns from suspension for Cork, defender Dave Mulcahy is cup-tied. Central defender Alan Bennett and utility man Steven Beattie need to prove their fitness.
Despite being 24-time record winners of the trophy, the tag of ‘Cup Kings’ continues to weigh heavily on Rovers given that they’ve not lifted the Blue Riband since 1987.
A cup winner with Drogheda United in 2005, it’s a remarkable aberration Rovers’ new “official” manager Sami Ristila is all too conscious of.
“Yeah, well, I’ve heard that already, it’s something we’d like to set straight and we’ve got a chance,” said the Finn.
“Cork are a good side and a good test, but we’ve improved even in the last two games. Our shape has been better and that has allowed us to attack even more effectively.
“It’s just that bit of finesse in the final third, and even in midfield, that bit of composure, and we’re a really good side. The energy is there, and everything. I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far.”
Barry Murphy continues between the Hoops’ posts as Craig Hyland is out with a thigh injury. Luke Byrne and Evan Osam also remain sidelined.
With midfielder Robbie Benson and winger Darren Meenan having returned for their midweek league victory at Sligo Rovers, striker Ciaran Kilduff is again holders Dundalk’s only injury absentee as they travel to meet First Division play-off hopefuls UCD at the UCD Bowl.
A hamstring injury continues to rule defender Brian Shortall out of contention for College.
Niclas Vemmelund and Dean Jarvis will continue as Derry City’s makeshift central defensive partnership for their trip to Wexford Youths as captain Ryan McBride (groin) and Aaron Barry (hip) are out, the latter for the season as he requires surgery. Gareth McGlynn and recent signing Max Karner are also ruled out by injury.
Youths have both central defender Gary Delaney and striker Paul Murphy back from suspension while Danny Furlong should make the squad following a groin injury.
Tonight’s fixtures (7.45 unless stated):
FAI Cup Quarter-finals:
Shamrock Rovers v Cork City (Live on RTÉ2); UCD v Dundalk; Wexford Youths v Derry City (8pm);
League of Ireland First Division:
Athlone Town v Drogheda United; Cabinteely v Shelbourne.
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