WHEN Cork City travelled to Oriel Park on March 29, they did so after recording back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.
However, a 1-0 loss to Dundalk was the first of what would prove to be eight games without victory, ending with John Caulfield departing.
Since John Cotter has come in as interim manager, City have again won two in a row, away to Bohemians and at home to UCD.
Now, they face Dundalk again as the Lilywhites come to Turner’s Cross tomorrow night.
As well as the game at Oriel, the champions also won at the Cross in the President’s Cup in February and City’s goalscorer that night, Kevin O’Connor, is hopeful that they can secure a different outcome.
“Obviously, in the President’s Cup, anything can happen,” he says, “fellas are finding their fitness but you still don’t want to lose to them.
“You don’t want to give them an inch for the reason. I thought we did well in the second half but we were still 2-0 down at half-time and couldn’t claw the second one back.
“Up there, we were a bit disappointed. I thought we defended well but obviously they got the goal and we didn’t create much to get it back.
“Bringing them down to Turner’s Cross on Friday, hopefully there’ll be a big crowd there to cheer us on and hopefully we can turn them over.”
The two wins since Cotter has taken over have helped to improve the mood in the City dressing room.
“I think it was a relief more than anything,” O’Connor says.
“We know the quality that’s in the dressing room and it wasn’t good enough from us, the run we went on.
“We had to get ourselves out of it and we got back to what we’ve done best, which was always defend well, make sure we were hard to break down, and we did that against Bohs.
“We looked solid.”
Then, against UCD, City played good football at times, with O’Connor doing well to set up a goal for Graham Cummins.
“We have in it us, we’re a good footballing team,” he says.
“Obviously, people have opinions on the way we should play but we just have to back ourselves on the pitch, have a bit more belief in ourselves and do it on the pitch.
“The second goal was a good goal and we showed signs against UCC of getting the ball down and keeping it but I still think there’s a lot more to come from us.
“The only way is upwards, hopefully.”
O’Connor, who left City for Preston North End in 2017, returned on loan at the beginning of this season but has been in and out of the team and has also rotated between left-back and midfield.
He has impressed in the middle of late though and is looking for a sustained run.
“You can do all the running you want outside of games but there’s nothing like match-fitness,” he says.
“Obviously, it’s tough to keep your head and keep going, but that’s the main part of it.
“You just keep working hard and then when your chance comes it’s up to you to take it.
“I’ll play wherever I’m put, I don’t mind it. I’ll play left mid, left-back, centre mid, anywhere you put me, I’ll play.
“Obviously, I came back to play centre mid and Cotts has given me the chances lately and hopefully I’m recording him with a few good performances.”
As well as the free kick against Dundalk, O’Connor also netted from a dead ball against Finn Harps and feels he has staked his claim to be the main man on such duties.
“To be fair, the one against Finn Harps, Griff told me to take it, so I said I would!” he laughs.
“Obviously, I feel if there’s on in shooting range and I feel I have a chance I’ll be lining up to take it, yeah.”