Cork City dream team: Picking the deadly strikers to lead the line up front 

Cork City dream team: Picking the deadly strikers to lead the line up front 
Cork City's Roy O'Donovan tussles with Drogheda United's Graham Gartland during the Setanta Cup final against Drogheda at Tolka Park. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

IT’S unsurprising that goalscorers are held in the highest regard.

They don’t do anything all game, they miss a few sitters, but once they get their toe to a 90th-minute cross and turn a draw into a win, they’re a hero.

For the goalkeeper, disaster is always lurking, seven world-class saves negated by one fumble.

Goals have such value because they are hard to get. Cork City discovered that in the disappointing 2019 season, while the nascent 2020 campaign brought just one strike in five games.

While there are players who can plunder goals from nothing, generally you need a system that services the goalscorers to the best extent.

All of this is a long way of saying that it’s not just a case of throwing 11 players out on the field and telling them to move the ball about. Players must complement each other.

The all-time Cork City side will never take to the field together, but we must still approach the selection as if there is a match at stake and choose the players accordingly.

So, for example, if one chooses Pat Morley, should John Caulfield also be in the side?

Cork City's John Caulfield celebrates his goal with Pat Morley against Shelbourne in 1999. Picture: Eddie O'Hare 
Cork City's John Caulfield celebrates his goal with Pat Morley against Shelbourne in 1999. Picture: Eddie O'Hare 

For more than a decade — apart from a couple of years when Morley joined Shelbourne — Morley and Caulfield were a deadly double-act up front and it is fitting that they share the record for most goals scored for the club, with 129.

Number purists may have been appalled by the fact that, while Morley wore number 10, Caulfield had 11 on his back, but, otherwise, they were the perfect partnership.

With other pairings, one will be the scorer and the other the supplier, but these two combined both aspects and neither had a monopoly on being the top scorer.

So, back to the original question: Can you include one, but not the other?

We will have to ruminate on that for tomorrow, but, for now, there is no doubting that both will be on the shortlist for inclusion.

The prominence of Morley and Caulfield meant that it was difficult for anybody else to challenge for the starting front spots in the 1990s — both Johnny Glynn and Tommy Gaynor were signed as strikers, but ended up playing on the wings, while Jason Kabia and James Mulligan had their moments, but couldn’t sustain them.

It wouldn’t be until the early 2000s that a bona fide star striker arrived, in the form of John O’Flynn, who was returning home after a spell with Peterborough United.

The fans took to him immediately. As the song said, ‘He is risen from the Shed and he is God.’

The goals flowed over the next five seasons and he scored the all-important first strike against Derry City in the 2005 title decider.

That was a side laden with attacking talent and it says much about the strength of City’s strikers over the years that Neale Fenn and Denis Behan are squeezed out here.

Kevin Doyle missed the second half of the league-winning season, after a move to Reading, but he was outstanding in the 18 months prior to that, transforming from a good winger into a superb striker.

When he left, Damien Richardson was able to insert Roy O’Donovan into the team, on the right of midfield, and he had an immediate impact, even more so after following Doyle’s route up front over the following two seasons.

There was a sojourn in the First Division, as the club regrouped. Graham Cummins’ goal against Shelbourne secured the 2011 title in that tier and, had he remained at the club for longer, he would be in with a stronger shout here.

The next time City won the Premier Division, there would be a tale similar to Doyle’s, in that Seán Maguire had departed halfway through the campaign, but his impact will never be forgotten.

John Caulfield had struggled to find a blue-chip centre-forward during his first two seasons in charge, but Maguire changed everything.

Seán Maguire after his winner against Dundalk in 2016. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Seán Maguire after his winner against Dundalk in 2016. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

He managed 28 goals in 43 games in all competitions in his first season and had the unbelievable rate of 26 in 30 in 2017 — his tally of 20 league goals was enough to win the golden boot by four, even though he was absent for the second half of the season.

Maguire didn’t just shine on his own, he made everyone around him much better, too, including the two wingers, Karl Sheppard and Stephen Dooley.

Dubliner Sheppard was an honorary Corkman by the end of his time at the club and he dovetailed brilliantly with Maguire, never more so than when he scored twice in the 2-0 win over Dundalk, at Turner’s Cross, in March 2017.

Similarly, while lack of longevity will probably count against Dooley when the final team is picked, he stands out as one of the most dangerous left-sided options seen at the Cross in recent times.

Shortlist: John Caulfield, Pat Morley, John O’Flynn, Kevin Doyle, Roy O’Donovan, Karl Sheppard, Stephen Dooley, Seán Maguire.

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