EXACTLY a year ago, Cork City travelled to take on Sligo Rovers in their third Premier Division game on the back of victories away to St Patrick’s Athletic and at home to Waterford.
In the Showgrounds, they made it three from three as Graham Cummins scored a hat-trick in a 4-1 win and all looked rosy for John Caulfield’s title-defending side.
A year on, the situation is almost entirely reversed – for the first time since 2012, their first season back in the top flight, City have lost their opening two games – exactly the same fixtures as last season – and they make the trip to the north-west in need of goals and points.
For City manager John Caulfield, it’s a case of trying to inject some confidence in a team that is still trying to find its feet. In an ideal world, that would mean a week to prepare after Friday’s 2-0 reversal against Waterford at Turner’s Cross, but he must make do.
“I think it’s a work in progress,” he said, “we have a lot of work to do, we know that and we’re working very hard on the training ground.
“I keep saying, you’d prefer to go week to week. Maybe, in the past, when you had a more experienced team, you’d want the next game as quick as you could get it.
“When you have a young team like that, getting them back into the training ground and doing three or four days is important, but we were in Saturday and Sunday and we travelled up.
“At the end of the day, it’s disappointing but there are no hiding places and these lads know that. Do you criticise them? No you don’t, I don’t anyway because they’ve been working hard and they’re doing fine.
“We haven’t played as well as we should but we will get better, there’s no doubt about that.”
With Kevin O’Connor’s goal from a free kick against Dundalk in the President’s Cup the only one City have registered, finding the net – no matter what the mode – is the mission.
On-loan striker Liam Nash may come into the team after impressive cameos in the first two games while another new signing, Garry Comerford, also did well off the bench against Pat’s and Waterford.
Caulfield accepts that it has been difficult so far, but he has faith that patience will bring about a change in fortunes.
“Every team we’ve had has always shown passion and commitment,” he said.
“There’s nobody ducking their responsibilities, they’re all working hard. At the same time, did we do enough against Waterford? We didn’t.
“We haven’t scored in the last two weeks, people are saying that and we know that, that’s frustrating but it’s not from the want of working at training.
“At the moment, it’s not going our way but there are no easy games, no hiding place and you have to stand up and be counted. It will stand us in good stead, there’s no doubt that we’ll turn it around but it is frustrating at the moment.”
Gearóid Morrissey, a late withdrawal before the game against St Pat’s, will hopefully be fit.
“We’ll assess him,” Caulfield said.
“He was close but he wasn’t ready, if the game was next Friday, I’d say definitely.
“It’s frustrating because he’s a huge player and an experienced player. If he’s out, he’s out, you just have to get on and someone else comes in and the lads have done well.”
Alan Bennett, forced off in the second half, won’t play in Sligo, with Dan Casey in line to come back into the team, but Shane Griffin, who missed the game, could be back.
“Alan tightened up his hamstring, he felt it a little bit at him,” Caulfield said.
“Looking at the scenario with Alan’s age, I would say he’ll definitely miss Monday night.
“Shane got a knock at training and again it’s one of those where you weigh up the risk. I’d certainly hope he’s back by next Friday, Monday I’m not sure yet.”