Teams of the decade: Title winners had to backbone our Cork City selection

Teams of the decade: Title winners had to backbone our Cork City selection
Cork City's Sean Maguire celebrates scoring against Dundalk. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

EARLIER this month, the official Cork City Twitter account held a series of polls to ask followers to pick what they thought was the club’s team of the decade.

Generally speaking, when the public get involved in these things, recency bias abounds – consider, for example, that early in the 2000s Manchester United conducted a vote for its greatest player and Eric Cantona won out.

There’s no doubt that the Frenchman was outstanding for a few years but his European input, or lack of it, was an asterisk against him whereas Bobby Charlton, having survived the Munich disaster, captained United to the European Cup in 1968 and by the time he left he had given the club 17 years of stellar service.

However, this City poll featured a different phenomenon. Certain inclusions were definitely players who had excelled for the Rebel Army, but they had done so prior to 2010 and hadn’t done enough in the period in question to warrant selection.

Just our opinion of course and now we have to back that up by picking the 11 players we feel are deserving of such an accolade.

Goalkeeper is at least an easy call – nobody else played anywhere near enough to have a viable shout over Mark McNulty and the reason for that was his excellent consistency, having had to bide his time as Michael Devine’s understudy.

His penalty shootout save from Michael Duffy in the 2017 FAI Cup final was a fitting reward for a career dedicated to City – and it’s not over yet.

In defence, the selection of Steven Beattie at right-back and Alan Bennett at centre-back are cut and dried, in our eyes.

It’s easy to forget that Beattie was originally signed as a winger – and he continued to wear number 10 even after moving back the field – but he settled incredibly well into the new role, carrying out his primary duties well and still getting forward, too.

Bennett re-signed for City ahead of the 2015 campaign and he settled back in without fuss, providing leadership and composure.

There are a few candidates for the berth alongside him, with Kenny Browne getting the nod.

While he was only with City in 2016, he formed an effective partnership with Bennett as the team only conceded 23 league goals.

City were certainly lucky that they found Ryan Delaney to replace him when he left or else we might not be talking about the 2017 double.

That historic season also saw Kevin O’Connor excel before he joined Preston North End as part of the Seán Maguire deal.

Like Beattie, O’Connor came to the club as a midfielder but his displays at left-back earned him notice.

Unlucky to miss out is John Dunleavy, who suffered for his versatility and injury-proneness.

In midfield, Gearóid Morrissey picks himself, in our view. A driving force in the team that won promotion from the first division in 2011, his performances saw him attract the attention of Cambridge United and when he came to City it was as a better player, capable of mixing it with anyone.

Like Morrissey, Garry Buckley is a City boy and, while he has now departed, he gave the club some service since making his debut in 2012.

At his best, he was capable of bursting from midfield to get on the end of moves and he has more than a view vital goals to his name.

The third midfield spot is a close call between Greg Bolger, Conor McCormack and Colin Healy. Ultimately, McCormack gets the nod because of how influential he was in the double season, having been signed as what many people thought would be a reseve.

The wide attacking positions also have a few contenders, such as Kieran Sadlier and Daryl Horgan, but again it’s hard to overlook the 2017 holders of those positions, Karl Sheppard and Stephen Dooley.

Both combined creativity with end product and it’s hardly a coincidence that Seán Maguire’s presence brought the best out in them.

Maguire is as much of a shoo-in as McNulty, his 18 months at the club transformational for him and City. While his goalscoring was prodigious, he was able to involve himself in build-up play too and he simply made everyone around him better. Hopefully City can find a replica of him for 2020.

CORK CITY: Mark McNulty; Steven Beattie, Alan Bennett, Kenny Browne, Kevin O’Connor; Conor McCormack, Gearóid Morrissey, Garry Buckley; Karl Sheppard, Seán Maguire, Stephen Dooley.

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