SUNDAY: SSE Airtricity League Premier Division: Cork City v Bohemians, Turner’s Cross, 5pm
Ordinarily, a visit from Bohemians would have a packed Turner’s Cross in raucous voice, but things are far from ordinary as the League of Ireland resumes.
Football is back, and for that we can all be thankful, but for now there won’t be any supporters present at the Cross. With just 13 games to be played as Neale Fenn’s side look to secure top-flight survival, the loss of vocal support could be a bad thing but the City manager feels that there be a positive to the situation, too.
“Every game is behind closed doors at the moment, so that’s a bit of a downside for us,” he says. “But the other side of having no fans is that there’s a little bit less pressure, possibly."
City prepared for Sunday’s game with a 1-1 friendly draw against Cobh Ramblers last Friday before a 3-2 Munster Senior Cup semi-final win over Midleton on Saturday. Fenn took positives from each outing while knowing that there was a lot of room for improvement.
“The most important thing about the pre-season games was obviously getting ready for the first game on Sunday,” he says.
“It’s about getting minutes into the boys, some got 90 minutes and some got over an hour, which was good.
“Performance-wise, I probably wasn’t overly happy with elements of each game but I was happy with other parts. We have something to work with and hopefully the fitness and the sharpness will be there by Sunday.”
Ultimately, there will be far more intensity when the real stuff starts.
“It’s difficult for the boys,” Fenn says.
“When it’s a friendly and it’s played at your training ground, there’s a different element to it, certainly.
“We have to inject our own intensity into the games and get used to playing with no supporters. We have to put some of the rustiness down to the fact that these were friendlies and Munster Senior Cup games.
“The season really restarts on Sunday and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Bohs finished in third place last season and were in the same spot when the season was paused in March. Keith Long’s side’s last outing was a 2-0 win at home to Shelbourne, who had beaten City at the Cross in the opening game. Danny Mandroiu and Kris Twardek give the Dublin side an attacking threat with captain Keith Buckley a strong presence in midfield while Dan Casey, who spent last season with City, is in defence.
Fenn knows it will be tough but he’s looking forward to it.
“Yeah, they’re a difficult team,” he says, “and the fact that they’ve been back a good bit longer than us is a disadvantage.
“They’ve been able to train more and play more friendlies, but on the flipside of that, our players just want to play matches.
“The best way of testing yourself is playing matches against good opposition, you should rise to that occasion. Playing against a strong team in the first game is a plus, I think, and the boys will be up for it and ready to go.”
Injury-wise, Fenn is hopeful that he will have close to a full squad, bar Conor Davis, who will miss the rest of the season as he has to have hip surgery.
“We’re hopeful that everyone will make it,” he says.
“A few lads have had niggles and we haven’t seen them in pre-season so far but we’re optimistic that they’ll be available – apart from Conor Davis, obviously, his injury in long term.
“What we’re hoping is that anyone else carrying a knock will be able to get over it and be ready for Sunday.”