Cork City dream team: Denis Hurley has picked his best 11 to shine at the Cross

Cork City dream team: Denis Hurley has picked his best 11 to shine at the Cross
Cork City striker John O'Flynn had the pace at his peak to suit the tactical set-up we've picked our dream team in. Picture: Eoin Noonan/SPORTSFILE

IT’S Friday, so there’s a Cork City team to be picked.

While we may not see a City side chosen by Neale Fenn take to the field again in 2020, we can at least ruminate on a composite 11 since the club’s establishment in 1984. In many ways, the hard work was done over the past four days as we filtered things down to four shortlists — goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and attackers — but arguably turning 28 into 11 is harder still.

We have at least settled on a 4-3-3 formation but there is a caveat of sorts in that it is a fluid layout, as will be made clear below.

Joe Gamble is included in a three-man midfield. Picture: INPHO/Andrew Paton
Joe Gamble is included in a three-man midfield. Picture: INPHO/Andrew Paton

But enough prevarication, here is the City team of teams, the one to see off all-comers.

In goal, Michael Devine gets the nod ahead of Phil Harrington and Mark McNulty.

League title winners all, with the three of them part of the 2005 squad, there wasn’t a lot in it but Devine’s best was outstanding and he can’t have been too far away from an international call-up when he was at his peak. He was perhaps unlucky that the aftermath of the league win was a period of turmoil for the club and, in a stronger team, he would surely have added more medals to his collection.

Devine would be a near-impenetrable last line of defence but you’d nearly feel confident throwing the number 1 jersey to Andy Gaw, given the four men ahead of him would be hard to pierce.

Again, there were tough calls, perhaps even more so as players’ versatility meant that there was a chain reaction depending on who was chosen where.

We should also make mention of John Dunleavy, who we omitted in Tuesday’s discussions — the ultimate Swiss Army knife defender, he suffered due to not being allowed to settle in one spot and a raft of injuries.

As with Devine, the 2005 league-winning side is strongly represented and it’s hardly surprising, given that 18 goals were conceded in 33 games. Neal Horgan is chosen at right-back. The model of consistency, a domestic Denis Irwin, Hoggy (below) could also play at left-back but was stronger on the right.

Though the goals were rare, he did score an important one at home to Shelbourne in 2005, but it was at the other end that he did his best work. While he had featured at the top level, he wasn’t above helping City out in the first division and his experience was key in the 2011 promotion season.

Danny Murphy was also a part of that team, having rejoined City for a third spell. The Cockney Rebel nickname sums the left-back up perfectly as he inserted himself in the fabric of Leeside so quickly and his marauding runs up the left flank would be a key asset in this team, given the way the selection is arranged.

Another Englishman who became an adopted Corkman is Dan Murray and it was the most difficult decision to leave him out in favour of Declan Daly. Like Sam Warburton and Peter O’Mahony on the 2017 Lions tour, whoever was chosen was going to be the captain and Daly’s longevity — he first played for the club in 1985 and retired in 2003, broken only by a late-1980s spell with Limerick – gives him the edge.

Able to play right-back or centre-back, he was also versatile in that he won a county SHC with Na Piarsaigh. He captained City to win the league, FAI Cup and league cup — what more could you want in a skipper?

Partnering Daly is Alan Bennett, the only outfielder to win the league twice with City. Still going strong nearly two decades after his debut, he is a model of a how a professional footballer should carry themselves.

Three of the midfielders on the shortlist make the grade – Joe Gamble, Patsy Freyne and Dave Barry. Gamble is currently the only man to have been capped by the Republic of Ireland senior team while playing with City and, like Devine, deserves a better medal haul for what he gave to the club in tough times.

Cork City legend Patsy Freyne. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork City legend Patsy Freyne. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

His instinct to protect the defence would allow the other pair to combine well further up the field, complementing each other’s strengths to good effect. Perhaps there could be an accusation of rose-tinted glasses, but there’s no denying the natural talent.

Freyne was so good that he returned after a few years away and played a key role in the 1998 FAI Cup win. That side was managed by Barry, who had managed to combine playing with City and being part of the best Cork Gaelic football team of all-time.

The midfield trio have an attacking triad of Kevin Doyle, Seán Maguire and John O’Flynn in front of them. It’s a bit of a cheat in that all three are best as central strikers but Doyle played a lot on the right flank for City and is an intelligent enough footballer to play in such a role here.

Kevin Doyle was a great header of the ball. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Kevin Doyle was a great header of the ball. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

There can be no doubting Maguire’s suitability to lead the line – his 2017 season was the best of any City player, even though he missed half of it. O’Flynn could be used in the same way Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang operates for Arsenal.

He would start from the left, where his pace could be used to good effect, but when he drifts in it would allow space for Murphy to bomb on while Barry could also pick up the ball in those areas. There’s little doubting that goals would results, as they would if Pat Morley and/or John Caulfield had been chosen – they are the fine margins.

Fergus O'Donoghue and Deccie Daly with the league trophy.
Fergus O'Donoghue and Deccie Daly with the league trophy.

Cork City 1984-2019 team: 1. Michael Devine; 22. Neal Horgan, 3. Alan Bennett, 5. Declan Daly, 2. Danny Murphy; 6. Patsy Freyne, 8. Joe Gamble, 7. Dave Barry; 17. Kevin Doyle, 24. Seán Maguire, 9. John O’Flynn.

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