FAI Cup first round: Cork City v Longford Town, Turner’s Cross, 7.45pm.
GIVEN that Cork City are currently bottom of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, the chance to focus on the FAI Cup might be seen as a welcome break for the team, but manager Neale Fenn doesn’t see it that way.
“No, it’s not a nice distraction,” he said, “it’s just another game that we want to win.
“We’re expected to win by most people, I don’t think any result other than a win would go down very well. It’s not a distraction for us, we have to win it.”
City’s opponents are of course the side Fenn left to come south last year, now managed by his former assistant Daire Doyle – is that something that’s easy to ignore, especially as there won’t be any Longford fans in the stadium?
“If I stay off social media and I don’t read anything on there, then it’s quite easy,” he said.
“If you flick on there, then it’s not easy. Obviously, I’m the former Longford manager and Daire was my assistant, the staff are still there and a lot of the players are the same.
“I know them inside out, most of them, I know the staff, but it won’t be too strange as this is my team now and I’m looking forward to putting one over them.”
Last Tuesday, Fenn made 11 changes for the Munster Senior Cup final against Rockmount but the side chosen tonight will be stronger.
“I think you have to respect the FAI Cup and respect Longford,” he said. “We haven’t got a huge squad where we have the luxury of resting players, especially with the lads getting injured on Saturday.
“We’ll be going as strong as we can with the players we have available and we’ll be ready for the ready.”
City are waiting to evaluate the fitness of Dáire O’Connor and Cory Galvin, both forced off in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Waterford at the RSC, while Deshane Dalling and Alec Byrne both missed out with niggles after starting the previous week against Bohemians.
Club captain Gearóid Morrissey hasn’t featured since the resumption of action, but Fenn is optimistic that the midfielder will be back soon.
“Gearóíd is coming along nicely and will be back in training this week,” he said.
In addition, the three attacking players that City have signed recently – Scott Fenwick, Kit Elliott and Connor Simpson – remain unavailable to Fenn as they complete their necessary quarantining.
Having identified the need for attacking reinforcements, Fenn is confident that they will have an impact when they do take to the field.
“I would say that we know we needed a striker, so we went out and signed forwards,” he said.
“We know we’re lacking up there, we’re not going to try to say that we’re cutting teams open and creating lots of chances.
“We are lacking someone who can hold the ball up and get us in and around up the pitch, like an Andre Wright at Bohs. He’s able to hold it up there for them, like Georgie Kelly at Pat’s, so that’s why we went out and signed three of them!
“We knew where we had to improve, we knew where we had to strengthen. You could see against Waterford that, up to the final third, we were very good but we should have done better in the final third.”
Was Kelly, who joined Pat’s on loan from Dundalk, someone Fenn looked at?
“Yeah, he was an option,” he said.
“You’d have to ask Vinny Perth about that one! We enquired about him and Vinny said that there was no chance, basically.”
It’s not easy to finalise deals, the manager accepts.
“You first try to sign players that you know,” he said.
“Then, you try to sign players you’ve seen playing against you and it’s a big, long list.
“You go through players you seen elsewhere and then it’s through recommendations and then it’s clips, agents.
“It’s a long process, obviously very rarely in our position are you going to get your first option and the striker you want, so it’s not easy, which is why it took a while.
“Ideally, we’d have got them in before the restart and got the two-week quarantine done.”