TONIGHT: SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, Cork City v Finn Harps, Turner’s Cross, 7.45pm
IT’S a fourth attempt at trying to win a first point – and score a first goal – of the season for Cork City as Finn Harps come south.
However, City’s Dáire O’Connor doesn’t think that being bottom is necessarily a cause for panic. After a 6-0 loss at Shamrock Rovers last Friday, City went down 3-0 against Dundalk on Monday and the fact that the top sides in the country were opponents in quick succession is important context, he feels.
“Mood-wise, we’re together,” he says.
“Obviously, we’re upset at results but in terms of togetherness and well-being, we’re getting on well.
“We’re still showing up with smiles on our faces, we’re not down in the dumps. It’s still very early days – you can look at it and say three games and no points, but we’ve done enough in patches to encourage ourselves that there is a lot of potential there.
“It will eventually come together and I hate saying, ‘It’ll come,’ but the reality is that we had two tough games away against the two best teams in the country.
“When the fixtures came out, you immediately identified those ones as tough, the Shels one is probably the one that’s still frustrating us the most. With 10 minutes to go, things were shaky, we probably should have just played for the draw but that’s not the mentality that we want to instil.
“If we had come out of that Shels game with a result, I don’t think there’d be half the talk about how we’re doing.”
Having lost Deshane Dalling to a red card just before half-time in Tallaght Stadium, City were cut open by Rovers in the second half and that was a learning experience. Otherwise, O’Connor feels there are positives to take from the two recent otings.
“The first half-hour against Shamrock Rovers before we went down [to ten men],” he says.
“I think [Stephen] Bradley came out in his interview and said we were on top for a lot of that game, we looked a threat on the counter.
“You could say we contained Dundalk relatively well up to the 60th minute and then we got done by a penalty and an absolute worldie of a goal.
“We still lost 3-0 and you shouldn’t have any positives coming out of a game like that but we still looked a threat going forward at times. We just need to eradicate that naivety that’s in our game.
“Against Rovers, at 2-0 down, the mentality is still that we’re going to come back but when it goes to 3-0, you have to shut up shop. It was a like a wild-goose chase at stages in the second half, it was embarrassing.
“We should have dealt with that better, it was just naivety. Everyone in our team would tell you that, but the biggest positive is that we’re only three games in, we’re not halfway through the season. We have an opportunity now to go on a decent run.”
As a creative player, the difficult away games can be frustrating.
“It can be because you can find yourself chasing the ball a lot,” he says.
“You don’t want to expend too much energy running all the way back, you win it and then you’re too far away from the opposition goal as a forward player.
“You want to be in their half as much as possible and the reality was against Dundalk and Rovers that we were on the back foot a lot more than we wanted to be. In saying that, we did look bright when we won the ball.
“It’s just that final, final ball and I know it’s a cliché but, once that comes off, I think we’ll be a lot more dangerous going forward.”
And O’Connor aims to be central to that, especially in terms of scoring goals.
“Last year, I started banging them in towards the end of the season, I had a lot more confidence,” he says.
“I’ve been working more on running in behind which will hopefully lead to more goals. I’ve set a target of ten – there are 36 games and in reality that should be possible.
“It’s only three games in so by no means am I way off that yet.”