SUNDAY: SSE Airtricity Premier Division: Finn Harps v Cork City, Finn Park, 5pm.
CORK City manager Neale Fenn hopes that the memory of John Kennedy can inspire Cork City to victory this evening in what is their biggest game of the season to date.
The Rebel Army travel to Donegal bottom of the table, a point behind their hosts Finn Harps, albeit with a game in hand after the postponement of Sunday’s clash with Dundalk. The weekend was overshadowed with the tragic death of tireless club volunteer Kennedy and Fenn wants his 31-year activism to be honoured.
“Obviously, it’s really tragic news that’s come through this week,” he says.
“It was really heartbreaking and if we can do anything, we’ll do our best to get a result for John.”
While the Dundalk game being put back – as a result of their Europa League win – allowed Harps to move a point ahead of City with their draw away to Shelbourne, the unexpected break has meant that City’s injured players have been given extra time to recuperate.
“A few of the lads needed an extra week to be 100 percent fit,” Fenn says, “it means that we have nearly everyone available for it.
“Kit Elliott is back, Joe Olowu is fit now, it gives Uniss a greater chance even though he’s a little bit of a doubt. Benno [Alan Bennett], we’re hoping that he’ll be okay but we’re not fully sure of that.
“Corey Galvin is fully fit again, he’s trained all week so that’s good.”
The return of striker Elliott is a huge boost. Having joined on loan from Huddersfield Town, the 19-year-old impressed in City’s best performance of the season so far, scoring one goal and assisting another in the 3-0 win over Sligo Rovers.
A knee injury after that game looked to have prematurely ended his time Leeside but, thankfully for City, the extent of the damage wasn’t as bad as initially feared and
“He feels like a new signing,” he says.
“He did really well in the Sligo match, which was the only one we had him for.
“After the prognosis he got, it looked like we wouldn’t have him again for the rest of the season but he went back to Huddersfield and they had a look at it and said it wasn’t as bad as first feared.
“To get the news that he was available again was great.”
While a win would take City off the bottom, Fenn doesn’t necessarily yet feel that they are in a situation where a win is absolutely essential but a defeat cannot be countenanced.
“I don’t think I have to try to convince the players that it is a big game for us,” he says, “I think they understand it’s a huge match.
“I don’t think it’s a must-win but I do think we have to go out there and not lose.
“The result on Friday was a good result for us, it clubs around within reach. If we could get one or two wins, then we’re back out of it again and that’s what we’re focusing on.
“Once we get our players fit again, I think you’ll get a true representation of what we’re about.”
And, while there is pressure on City to get a good result, Fenn feels that Ollie Horgan’s Harps side will also have to deal the unusual situation of going into a game as favourites against a side below them in the table.
“Especially at home, when it’s one of the first times they’re expected to win – when they’re used to scrapping and people might think we’re not – that puts more pressure on them.
“They don’t have that expectation a lot of the time and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle that.
“We know that we have to do, we need to stay in the game and keep it tight. I’m sure it’ll be a very tight game and if we get a chance then we need to take it.”