HAVING lost a league opener for the first time since 2012, it’s unusual territory for most of the Cork City squad.
However, Karl Sheppard insists that the Rebel Army are bullish ahead of tomorrow night’s home clash against Waterford at Turner’s Cross.
“I guess we’re upbeat, really,” he says.
“It was a bit of the unknown with a lot of new lads coming into the squad. I think, when we look back at the game we’re disappointed but there were a lot of positives, a lot of pluses.
“I don’t think Pat’s really had a shot until the 86th minute bar the penalty, so there’s a lot to build on. It could have been a different game if [goalkeeper] Brendan Clarke wasn’t in such good form.”
Sheppard started at centre-forward away to St Patrick’s Athletic last Friday night, later dropping deeper as manager John Caulfield brought on both Graham Cummins and Liam Nash.
Versatility has always been a key asset for the Dubliner.
“To be honest, I’ll play wherever John puts me,” Sheppard says.
“I played last year in the cup final up front and did okay on the day and played against Pat’s up front, but whether it’s on the right or left or up front, I’ll be happy out.”
To that end, shaking off a lingering back injury is key, but Sheppard believes that he is close to full fitness.
“Getting there,” he says.
“I missed a lot of pre-season with the back and it has been very slow but I’m getting there.
“It’s starting to get to where I want to be, where I need to be.”
With Nash, James Tilley and Matthew Gillam having added to City’s attacking options, it means that Sheppard must forge new connections.
“It’s a change,” he says, “but this is my eighth or ninth year in the league, it’s something you have to get used to.
“You just adapt quickly, I suppose that’s down to work on the training pitch. It’s almost telepathic with some players but with others you have to get to know their game as best you can.”
Hopefully, that work will reap rewards against Waterford, but Sheppard is taking nothing for granted.
“They’re a good team,” he says.
“They seem to have changed their personnel a bit too this year, gone a bit younger and got more legs in the team, which is obviously good for them.
“Then they have a lot of experience in Kenny Browne and Damien Delaney, we all know how good they are. It’ll be a tough game and hopefully the atmosphere is good.”