THESE are interesting times for Cork City Football Club to sum it up very simply.
After relinquishing the Premier Division title which they had won in 2017, how will City and John Caulfield react next term?
With a view towards next year, one fascinating thing to see is are Cork signing players as part of a plan, a coherent recruitment strategy or else is it a case of signing players before somebody else does.
Players such as Daire O’Connor, Garry Comerford and Dan Casey all are players that provide decent potential, but are they players that are being recruited also with the bigger picture of beyond next season in mind?
Losing the 2015 Cup final to Dundalk, at the time that also had the feeling of an end of an era game.
It feels as though City are in a similar situation now.
That was in the sense in that a good few the players from the first block of Caulfield’s tenure left the club.
It was during that winter that City rebuilt and made the signing of Sean Maguire.
Heading into the 2016 campaign, City strengthened to be in a stronger position to go toe to toe with Dundalk, with Stephen Dooley also brought into around this time.
2016 was a better year for City and then of course 2017 everything clicked into gear.
By the end of the 2018 it feels as though this most recent Cork side had reached the end of its cycle, with a number of big departures happening already in the off season.
The realisation of change was addressed by John Caulfield just a half an hour after the FAI Cup final at the Aviva Stadium, as he discussed about how they need to build a new team.
As noted after 2015 and what happened since, Caulfield has proven he is a decent operator at the top of the League Of Ireland ladder.
He knew where City needed to strengthen to overcome Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk and win the Premier Division title.
Despite the reservations about the style of football which Cork play, people tend to forget that some of the football over the 2017 season, with Maguire on fire in front of goal, was arguably some of the most entertaining that many City fans had ever seen the club play.
Caulfield showed how good of a man manager he could be with the way he handled Maguire and helped him to kick start his football career again.
It is quite clear how Maguire feels about the importance of the role which his boss at Cork City has made to his career.
“I remember the first phone call from him very clearly.
“I knew I didn’t want to sign back with Dundalk because of the way I’d been treated up there.
“ I wasn’t in a good a place, didn’t really know what I was going to do next, and when I got that phone call asking me to meet up with him, I jumped at the opportunity.
“Getting the move to Preston, making my Ireland debut, if it hadn’t been for Cork City and John Caulfield, none of this would have happened.
“I feel I owe everything to them.”
Kenny’s work with Dundalk has been rewarded by getting the Irish U21 job and then lying in wait for the Senior post in 2020.
But John Caulfield must also gain high praise.
He has been the manager of the only team that has gone meaningfully toe to toe and overcome the Kenny managed Dundalk side in the league over the past few years.
Caulfield has more than earnt the right to have the chance to go again and try to get City back where they want to be, that is at the top of the domestic Irish football tree and winning trophies.
When you see the signings that Shamrock Rovers have made so far during the off session, if it all clicks into place then Stephen Bradley’s side could be the ones that break up the top two of Dundalk and Cork City.
All in all the 2019 League Of Ireland season looks set to be an intriguing watch and there could very well be a battle for Cork City to even finish in 2nd this time around.