MONDAY: SSE Airtricity League Premier Division: Cork City v Derry City, Turner’s Cross, 7.30pm.
IN the recent past, late-season home games against Derry City have been a source of happy memories for Cork City and its supporters.
Just short of 15 years ago, the clubs met at Turner’s Cross in a Premier Division title decider as goals from John O’Flynn and Liam Kearney gave victory to Damien Richardson’s side, while in 2017 it was a goalless draw with the Candystripes that finally pushed John Caulfield’s team over the line en route to securing the double.
Monday night will be different, and not just because this most unusual of seasons is played to a finish before empty stands.
With City guaranteed to finish 10th of 10 teams no matter what happens, the game is of little importance to them in one sense, though at the same time players will be keen to potentially play themselves into new contracts for the expected promotion campaign in 2021.
Added to that is the fact that Derry are not yet assured of safety and so they will be searching for the win that will preserve their Premier Division status.
City interim manager Colin Healy certainly isn’t treating the occasion as a meaningless end-of-season knees-up, as he is keen to end the campaign on a positive note.
“Tenth at the moment, it’s difficult,” he said.
“It’s not where we should be but it’s where we are. My job now is to keep the boys focused and to try to get them to put in a good performance against Derry.”
City’s 2-1 loss to Sligo Rovers a fortnight ago, coupled with Finn Harps’ win away to Bohemians later that night, condemned the Rebel Army to the drop with a game to spare, having won just two of 17 games this season.
While there has been a long gap between the game in the Showgrounds and this one, Healy hasn’t been taking it easy and he hasn’t allowed the players to do so, either.
“We had two weeks of training,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say that the pressure is ever off. In training sessions, we’re looking for high standards and good performances and we wouldn’t accept anything less.
“Training has been good, training has been hard, it’s the way we want to do things.
“Just because we’re down at the bottom doesn’t mean that we can do things lightly and give guys days off, that’s not how it works.
“They’re professional players, you come in and train and get ready for Derry.”
After the Sligo game, Healy lamented the way poor mistakes had proven costly for City on more than one occasion during the season. While he has had limited time to improve things after taking over in the wake of Neale Fenn’s departure, there have been some bright spots since then. Ultimately, the results City needed have proven beyond the squad, though.
“Results haven’t gone our way,” he said.
“Have I seen improvement? I have, but it’s a short space of time. This is a results business and you need to get results straightaway.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get those results, but hopefully, come Sunday the players will get an opportunity and we can go and get a win.”
Healy will hope that it’s not his last game in charge, as he has indicated his willingness to take the manager’s job on a full-time basis. If that comes to pass, it’s likely to be under potential new owners Grovemoor, but takeover talk hasn’t permeated the dressing-room.
“Around the squad and around the coaching staff, we’ve been just concentrating on training and getting ready for the Derry game,” Healy said.
“There haven’t been much conversations about that. Probably on the outside, from yourselves and supporters and that kind of thing, there has been a lot of talk about whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.
“Time will tell.”