SATURDAY: SSE Airtricity League Premier Division: Sligo Rovers v Cork City, The Showgrounds, 5pm
IT’S down to the final two chances for salvation for Cork City as they battle to retain their Premier Division status, but things are out of their own hands.
City go to Sligo on Saturday evening and then host Derry City on Sunday, November 8, but Finn Harps, whom they trail by a point, have two games in hand.
If City were to lose at the Showgrounds and Harps then beat Bohemians two and a half hours later, the first division would beckon.
It is a sobering prospect, just three years after the league and cup double, but interim manager Colin Healy is keen to focus on the positives.
The former Republic of Ireland midfielder had overseen three games since taking over from Neale Fenn and, while they have yielded just one point, the performance graph is pointing upwards.
The display in the 2-0 home loss to Dundalk was better than in the 3-0 reversal at Bohs and last Saturday’s scoreless draw with Waterford could easily have been a home win.
Healy is hopeful that the game against Sligo can provide another incremental improvement.
“Since I’ve come in, on the training ground they keep getting better and better,” he said.
“If you get it right on the training ground and the attitude is right, the more you do, the better you’re going to get.
“That’s what you’re seeing at the moment — the Waterford game was better than the previous game, unfortunately we just didn’t get the goals on the night.”
Healy is pleased that clarity was provided with the news that the season will finish even with the country at level 5 in terms of being Covid-ready, and he and team are now keen to push on.
“The boys are focused,” he said.
“They were in training Tuesday morning [after Monday’s announcement] and they were good and they were sharp in tough conditions.
“The boys have trained well and the confidence is up. We put on a good performance the other night, though we didn’t get the three points. The lads played well and defended well, they had three or four chances and just couldn’t take them.
“Hopefully we can put on another good performance on Saturday.
Two players who won’t be involved, however, are Scott Fenwick and Connor Simpson, who have both left the club. Signed as action resumed at the beginning of August, neither had managed a goal in their time on Leeside and had struggled to feature under Healy.
“Scott Fenwick and Connor Simpson have gone back to England,” he said.
“There wasn’t guaranteed game-time, so they made the decision to go home and we wish them the best of luck.
“Since they came in, they’ve been grand fellas and I’ve good time for them, but I couldn’t guarantee them game-time so they decided to move on.”
Otherwise, it’s close to a full-strength squad for Healy.
“Maybe a few boys have tired legs and all that kind of stuff, but otherwise we’re okay,” he said.
“Everybody trained during the week, so we should be okay.”
Sligo are in seventh place but could feasibly end up in the play-off spot in ninth if Harps were to pick up enough points. Healy is expecting a tough battle against Liam Buckley’s side.
“Sligo’s always a tough place to go. We’ll watch them during the week and put a gameplan together and show it to the players and hopefully we can get the three points.
“Sligo have a good manager and good attacking players, we know what they’re about and we’ll be ready for them.
“Training has been good, there’s been a good tempo to it and performances are getting better.
“We need to get points on the board as quickly as we can and hopefully we can do that on Saturday.