Cork City manager John Caulfield has challenged towering defender Ryan Delaney to become the club’s set-piece goal king this season as he looks to add an aerial threat to his title challengers.
Delaney — a close-season loan signing from English Championship side Burton Albion — scored his first City goal with a header in the 4-0 SSE Airtricity League Premier Division win over Galway.
Caulfield is determined to ensure the Wexford man doesn’t rest on his laurels.
“We’re working hard with him on areas we think he can improve,” said Caulfield ahead of tonight’s trip to Drogheda.
“For a guy that size in our league where we create a lot of free kicks and corners, I expect Ryan to be getting more goals. He’s 6ft 5ins. It’s good to get off the mark but with the delivery we have, he knows I wlll expect him to score many more goals.”
Delaney is on loan at City until June. Burton boss Nigel Clough is keeping tabs on his player.
“Nigel’s ringing every second week to see how he’s getting on and playing,” said Caulfield.
“Nigel felt he lacked a bit of experience and Ryan hadn’t played regularly for a number of months. He’s delighted he’s playing with us.”
For his part, the Cork boss is also impressed with his centre-back’s attitude.
Delaney has started both league games for City this year, as well as the President’s Cup, and each time with a different centre-back partner.
Last week, he played alongside City veteran Alan Bennett, who played his first game since his man-of-the-match performance in the FAI Cup final last November.
“I was delighted,” said Caulfield. “When you get to Alan’s age of 36, and haven’t played for four or five months, having missed a lot of pre-season, it’s not so easy to walk back in.”
City have had another impressive acquisition this season in midfielder Jimmy Keohane, another Wexford connection now at City.
Having spent last season at Sligo, Keohane is now firmly established back in the Irish game after five seasons cross-channel at Bristol City, Exeter, and Woking. Now Keohane has quickly established himself in midfield for the Turner’s Cross men.
“I did have the option to stay but i felt coming home playing in the Premier Division in Ireland was appealing,” says Keohane. “Coming back to Sligo last year was a building season. I’m enjoying it now in Cork and want to challenge for a title.
“Also to get the chance to represent your country in Europe later in the season is very appealing.”
Drogheda were tipped to struggle in the Premier Division this season but Pete Mahon’s side are currently riding high in the Premier Division’s top four with two wins from two.
“Too many people assumed before a ball was kicked that certain teams were going to go down,” says Caulfield.
“I think Pete Mahon has been in our league for 25 years, he’s a fantastic manager. They’re hard working, there’s no superstars, and they will be a thorn in every side this year.”
Drogheda will be without experienced midfielder Killian Brennan who is recovering from a broken collarbone suffered in the opening night win over Galway.
Mahon’s team is likely to feature two players who featured for Sunderland in the Premier League, Sean Thornton and nine-time Irish international striker Stephen Elliott, although it is the their stinginess in defence which has pleased him most so far this season.
City and Drogheda are the only two sides yet to concede this season in the Premier Division.
“We conceded far too many goals for my liking last season and it’s great to see progress in the team,” said Mahon.
“Cork may have higher profile players who have won more but we have a young and hungry squad who are eager to prove themselves. I think it’ll be a great barometer for us to see what level we are at,” Mahon said.
Sean Maguire scored his second goal of the 2017 campaign against Galway but a hamstring strain could see last season’s top scorer miss out, as a heavy fixture load looms in the coming week, with games against Sligo at Turner’s Cross on Monday and Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght on St Patrick’s Day.
If Maguire does miss out, Karl Sheppard, Achille Campion, and Conor Elllis are all available options.
Garry Buckley is also likely to feature tonight as he returns from suspension.
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