Cork City's new captain relishing another date with Shels on Valentine's night

Cork City's new captain relishing another date with Shels on Valentine's night
Cork City's Gearoid Morrissey and Donal Higgins of Galway United battling last season. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

THE objective of the interview originally was to focus on the forthcoming League of Ireland season, but with the opening game seeing Cork City and Shelbourne renew their rivalry, there was only once place to start.

“It’s brilliant (the rivalry), especially that First Division game,” said Gearoid Morrissey.

And just like that the memories of that famous night in Tolka Park back in 2011 came flooding back.

Morrissey was just a few weeks shy of his 20th birthday when City headed to the capital to take on their old foes knowing a win would be good enough to snatch the first division title from Shels’ grasp.

With the scores level at 1-1 at the break, the Leesiders knew a big second half was required if they were to lift the silverware. But there was more than just the talented opposition to overcome.

“We went in at half time and our dressing room door was key locked,” remembers Morrissey.

“Tommy Dunne was the manager at the time so there was all these mind games, but Tommy kicked in the door, blew it off the hinges so we could go in.

“It really revved us up. They were doing all that to put us off, but it was just fuel for the fire for us.”

But despite a spirited showing from the visitors, the sides remained locked at 1-1 until the 94th minute. From here Morrissey recalls the decisive moment as if it only happened yesterday.

“Derek O’Brien came on for the last 20 minutes and had a massive impact,” he said.

“He had that step over in the locker. He touched it by the right full-back, whipped it in with his left leg, Cummins up — at the time he was banging them in for fun, especially in the air — he got up, headed it in, great goal, the scenes were unbelievable.

“That was my first taste of anything like that with Cork. Don’t get me wrong winning the double in 2017 was THE best moment, but that game was pure ecstasy, we were elated.

“To be fair, Shelbourne were always tough so we knew we had to graft and this game coming up will be no different.”

Which brings us to the present day where the two clubs now reside in the Premier Division for the first time since 2013.

The Reds are now the first division title holders and they became so with the help of former City youth player Denzil Fernandes and Cork local Jaze Kabia.

In the off-season, they signed Karl Sheppard to add another interesting element into the mix, although Morrissey is keen to focus on his own team.

“They have made a few signings — a few former players from here — so the anticipation and the excitement of playing against them is huge especially knowing the history, so no doubt the cross will be buzzing on Friday night,” he admitted.

“It’s a whole new, young, hungry group of players — for some it will be their first time playing in the Premier Division — so they’re chomping at the bit and can’t wait to get going.

“For some, it will be their first time playing in Turner’s Cross in front of our fans so I think the anticipating and the excitement is building ahead of the new season.”

Cork City FC senior players Gearóid Morrissey and Eabha O'Mahony.
Cork City FC senior players Gearóid Morrissey and Eabha O'Mahony.

While there has been a significant change to the playing staff at City during the winter break, there has also been a change of approach behind the scenes.

For the first time since he re-joined the club in December 2015, Morrissey has participated in a pre-season schedule that wasn’t orchestrated by John Caulfield, with Neale Fenn now at the helm.

“Every manager has their own style and every manager is different,” said the 28-year-old.

“Neale has come in and he has been brilliant, we all get on well with him and he is one of us so when it comes to work, we know when to get the head down and put in a shift for him.

“We are all buying into it. We are doing a lot of technical and tactical work which has been really good.

“Because we have so many young lads, it is good that everyone can get a feel positionally where we should be and where we shouldn’t be. We are all behind the manager so we just can’t wait to get going, it’s been a long winter.”

The new boss has shown his faith in Morrissey by naming him the club captain for the campaign ahead and following a difficult season in 2019, the former Ringmahon Rangers star has already set his target for 2020.

“I turned 28 in November so I’m maturing and you naturally, add that (leadership) to your game anyway.

“I don’t think it would matter if there were young or old lads in the squad, I would still be a bit more vocal and that comes with experience.

“We do have that young squad this year bar Benno, Nults and myself, all the rest are really young so there is definitely a responsibility to help fellas out like there was when I was in my early 20s.

“There was players there then that knew the game that would give you bits of information to help because at the end of the day we all have the same goal so any way you can help someone out you do it.

“Our target is just to go out and give everything. As long as we are playing the way we should be playing, we have passion, we have pride in the jersey and we are willing to give everything, I don’t think anyone will ask for more than that.

“Everyone here knows how big a club Cork City is, it just so happens it’s not where it should be right now, but we have a great opportunity to fix that.”

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