SATURDAY: SSE Airtricity Premier Division: Shelbourne v Cork City, Toka Park, 5pm
IT’S a second trip to Dublin in the space of six days for Cork City and the one that they would have preferred to win, if given the choice.
Having lost 2-1 in the FAI Cup second round to SSE Airtricity League Premier Division leaders Shamrock Rovers on Monday night, City go to Drumcondra to take on Shelbourne as they seek to pick up precious league points in the battle for survival.
There are no other distractions now and, unsurprisingly, City manager Neale Fenn is clear on where the priorities lay before Monday’s loss.
“That’s been our main thing for a while now, trying to stay in the Premier Division,” he says.
“It’s massively important to the club that we stay in the division. As much as we’re extremely disappointed to be knocked out of the cup, if you were to offer me three points on Saturday or to win in the cup, I’d have taken the three points.”
Having fallen behind to Rovers shortly before half-time on Monday, City played themselves back into the game as Gearóid Morrissey equalised following a well-worked move involving Cian Coleman and Dylan McGlade.
While Danny Lafferty’s second goal secured victory for the cup holders, Fenn saw a lot to be encouraged by. Tomorrow’s opponents Shelbourne, who sit seventh in the table, one of four teams four points ahead of City and Finn Harps, recently played Stephen Bradley’s side too and weren’t as adventurous, though they did manage to get a draw.
“I think that some teams would go to Rovers and wouldn’t put up the same kind of fight,” Fenn says.
“The Shels game there, for the first half-hour, Shamrock Rovers had ten or 15 corners or something.
“It certainly wasn’t that kind of game, it wasn’t one-way traffic, I don’t think they caused us that many problems at the start.
“But the funny thing is that Shels got a draw out of it. We went there and conceded a poor goal to start it, you’re 1-0 down and that’s the margins.
“We were 1-0 up last week away to Derry and we conceded a soft goal five minutes after half-time and then conceded another one straightaway.
“Conceding soft goals is hurting us, obviously, because when you go 1-0 up you like to think you can protect the lead.
Back in February, Ciarán Kilduff’s goal gave Shels a 1-0 victory at Turner’s Cross. At the time, nobody knew what lay in wait and the shortened campaign is an extra challenge, Fenn feels.
“I think we were one of the clubs objecting to that,” he says.
“The length of the season is one part of it, the shortness of it and two clubs possibly going down.
“There’s a one-legged play-off at a netural venue, which is kind of a surprise to a lot of people, it just got sneaked in there.
“Before, it was a two-legged play-off with the Premier Division team getting the advantage of the home game in the second leg. This time, it’s at a neutral venue, which obviously takes any sort of advantage out again.
“We’ve just got to try to make sure that we’re not in the play-off. Those things are there for every team that’s down there at the bottom of the league. It is obviously a worry and you don’t want to be in that bottom two.”
City’s injury list is at least clearing somewhat and Fenn is optimistic that Uniss Kargbo could be back in contention.
“We’re hoping that Uniss possibly could be back,” he says, “and Cory Galvin, possibly.
“Other than that, anyone else who was out is long-term.”