Munster Senior Cup semi-final:
Cork City v Midleton, Bishopstown, 5pm
ALMOST five months after winning their Munster Senior Cup quarter-final against Mayfield United, Cork City will resume their defence of the provincial competition as preparations for the return of the SSE Airtricity League gear up.
City welcome Midleton to their training ground at Bishopstown on Saturday evening, with manager Neale Fenn using the game, and other recent friendlies, as a way of building match-sharpness ahead of the clash with Bohemians at Turner’s Cross on Sunday week.
Having played Wexford and Ringmahon Rangers last week, City clashed with Avondale United on Tuesday and take on Cobh Ramblers tonight.
The Cobh clash and this cup tie will be Fenn’s final opportunity to evaluate players though he’s keen to stress that spots in the team for the Bohs game are still up for grabs.
“The lads will be playing either against Cobh or Midleton,” he says.
“We’ll be using both of those games. Originally, we thought that the Bohs game would be on the Friday [next week, July 31] so we were trying to get the games in as close as possible.
“Now that it’s on the Sunday [August 2], it gives us a bit more recovery time so it’s probably worked out a bit better for us. Some lads might be in one game and think that means they’re in the next week and not have a good game; someone else might play another day and do well.
“The team’s certainly not picked yet and we’ll be using every game to give lads minutes and get match-practice.”
City returned to training on Wednesday, June 24 and Fenn is happy that things are back to normal — or as close to the old ‘normal’ as possible. He is encouraged that Joseph Olowu (Arsenal) and Deshane Dalling (Queens Park Rangers) have returned on loan, though undertaking the correct Covid-19 practices with them was a challenge.
“The first week was strange, people a bit unsure of how to act around each other,” he says, “but, since then, it’s been good.
“Everyone has been keeping fit and they’re all keen to train so it’s been enjoyable. The biggest challenge was getting the loan players back — they came over from the UK and had to quarantine for two weeks.
“We didn’t have a start date, which was frustrating because the clubs were asking when we needed them for. Once we had that date, we could get them back but then they had to isolate.
“We had to do small groups at the start, bringing lads in for 45 minutes or an hour, and that was another challenge but it was important to get them kicking footballs again. Normally, when you have an off-season, they’ll be playing five-a-sides with their mates or whatever but everyone was stuck indoors, not doing anything.
“Thankfully, things aren’t too different now that everyone’s back.”
Fenn isn’t ruling out further transfer business before the Bohs game, either. Former City players Graham Cummins and Kevin O’Connor have returned to the club and Fenn welcomes the experience they bring, especially given that the compacted Premier Division schedule means that there is little or no time to accommodate a ‘settling in’ period.
“We hope so,” he says, “but it’s difficult at this time of year. For loans, some of the English teams aren’t back yet and some haven’t finished yet! That means that players we might be looking at haven’t been training.
“We lost a few players and we felt we needed to change a few things around in the squad. We had a very young squad at the start of the year and we felt that that was fine, we’d get better throughout the year. When it’s been reduced, cut in half to 13 matches, your focus changes a bit. It’s not about development or progression, getting better throughout the year, it’s about results now.
“We felt that, if we had a bit more experience, it would benefit us in the short term and that was the most important thing at the time.
“The two boys were available and have been good additions.”