FOOTBALL is about to return, though of course, it won’t be exactly as we knew it prior tothe Covid-19 pandemic.
Ultimately, the presence or absence of spectators at Turners Cross on Sunday evening (5pm) won’t affect Cork City’s primary objective, which is to pick up a win against Bohemians and put daylight between themselves and the spectre of relegation from the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.
With the league schedule having been cut from 36 games to 18, City have just 13 matches left to play before the end of the season. Despite the shorter season, the promotion/relegation situation remains the same — the side in last place in the top flight will automatically be relegated while the ninth-placed finishers will enter into a play-off against the side that emerges from the series involving second, third, fourth and fifth in the second tier.
The Rebel Army are currently in ninth place with three points from the five fixtures played before the cessation of action, though Finn Harps and Derry City are each just a point ahead. Sligo are in last place, but they have received a boost with the signing of former Derry striker Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe.
Ogedi-Uzokwe was the top scorer in the Premier Division last year — including a hat-trick against City at Turners Cross, the first scored against the club in a quarter-century — and that injection of goal-threat is likely to be a boon for the Bit o’Red.
Finding goals will be the biggest challenge for City, who managed just one in the opening five games — Alec Byrne’s winner in their only victory, at home to Finn Harps.
While Graham Cummins managed 17 goals in all competitions for City two seasons ago, his re-signing is intended as defensive cover, so instead manager Neale Fenn will be looking at alternative attacking options. With Conor Davis — signed from Derry City at the start of the season — unavailable for the remainder of this campaign as he undergoes hip surgery, City have had Kurtis Byrne on trial.
The experienced former Hibernian, Ross County, Dundalk, Bohemians, St Patrick’s Athletic, Linfield, and The New Saints (Wales) attacker featured in a recent friendly against Wexford and he could be in line to join for the rest of the campaign, with Cummins and Kevin O’Connor having already been secured.
Before lockdown, Dylan McGlade featured as a false nine with Reyon Dillon and Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh also tried. Cian Bargary is another option for Fenn, who was boosted by the retention of two loan signings — centre-back Joseph Olowu and winger Deshane Dalling.
The future of Belgian-born former Republic of Ireland U21 goalkeeper Liam Bossin still unclear. As a result, Mark McNulty is in line to retain the number 1 spot, which he had reclaimed just before the break due to an injury to Bossin.
Unfortunately, no spectators will be present at the Cross on Sunday, but the league has moved to make non-televised games available to stream online. City season-ticket holders will be able to avail of this service for free, while match programmes will be produced too, as club chairman Declan Carey outlines.
“Despite having no supporters at games, everyone at the club is doing our best to keep everyone engaged,” he said.
“We offered all season ticket holders a free streaming pass so they can watch every Premier Division game for the rest of the season.
“We’re also happy to offer a match programme subscription to satisfy avid collectors. We’ve allowed anyone to go on and subscribe to get all programmes delivered to their door for the last remaining eight games. We’ll also have a digital programme available for sale for each game.
“This week we confirmed the annual club golf classic will again take place in September. Teams of three can be entered for €200, or €150 for tee-times before 10am. There are also opportunities for tee-box and green sponsorship, for only €50, for the non-golfers who wish to offer their support.”
For full details on the club golf classic, proudly sponsored by the Mardyke Arena UCC, which takes place at Lee Valley on Tuesday, September 22, contact Philip Long on 086-6058782 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.