FRIDAY night’s Munster Senior Cup final against Midleton provides Cork City’s first respite from Premier Division action, after six games.
Coincidentally, the decider comes exactly a year after the 5-0 win over another black-and-white-striped side, St Mary’s, in the 2018 decider, but City had played seven league games before that, with the FAI opting this year to push back a midweek round of fixtures to later in the campaign.
The pause in league activity is a good opportunity to evaluate the various statistics thrown up by what has been an unusual campaign for City so far. The seven goals conceded so far is most unlike John Caulfield’s side – it took until the ninth game to concede seven in the league last year – and it took until last Friday’s 2-0 win over Bohemians for City to have a positive goal difference.
The eight goals scored – with shutouts in the opening two fixtures – are in contrast to the seven registered in the first three games last year.
What might be a worry is that those eight have come from five players, with only one scored by a striker, Graham Cummins’ goal at Fin Harps. Gearóid Morrissey is the top league scorer with three, while defenders Conor McCarthy (two), Seán McLoughlin and Dan Casey have also found the net.
It’s indicative of City’s strength at set-pieces, but Casey is the only new signing to have netted and that statistic must change soon.
Thankfully, the poor start looks to have been put behind the team, having gone unbeaten in the previous four fixtures, winning three and drawing one. Unsurprisingly, that has coincided with having a more settled side, as there have only been three changes to the starting lineup across the four matches since the 2-1 win at Sligo Rovers at the end of February.
Two of those alterations were in the centre-forward role, as Dan Smith replaced Liam Nash and was then replaced himself as Graham Cummins returned from injury, while it was a similar case in defence, with Colm Horgan coming in after Seán McLoughlin had to go off against Derry City, with Conor McCarthy slotting in at centre-back as Horgan played at right-back.
McCarthy is one of just four players to start all six games – goalkeeper Mark McNulty, Garry Buckley and Dáire O’Connor are the others, with McNulty and O’Connor the only players to do so in the same positions. Unfortunately for City, O’Connor is now set for a spell out after suffering a dislocated shoulder against Bohemians last week.