JOHN CAULFIELD is five years manager of Cork City this week.
It’s been an amazing five years and no one could have predicted the success he brought to the club over that period, this day five years ago when he was first unveiled as the successor to Tommy Dunne.
Ok, the cup final didn’t go too well. Dundalk were the better side, played the better football and deservedly won the double and I congratulate them on that achievement.
But it should not take away from what the west Cork man has achieved in those 60 months as the boss of Cork City. No other Cork manager has been as successful as Caulfield in any era. His achievements and honours won, make him the club’s most successful manager ever.
But when you look at who he is, or what he achieved as a player and then as a coach elsewhere, there were hints and signs that if his career at Cork City went along the same lines as his previous clubs, he would deliver.
That he has done in the past and to a certain extent this season, and while we never expected it to be so soon, as in his first year in charge, challenging for the title and qualifying for Europe, he has been a winner all his life.
So, we should have expected good things, but he has surpassed this and done an amazing job in terms of qualifying for Europe and lifting trophies.
Now aged 53, Caulfield, who is married to Grainne, his biggest and most vocal supporter, who he has two girls Aideen and Sinead with, has been a winner all his sporting life, regardless of what sport he played or what team he managed.
He began his managerial career with Avondale in 2002 and was there until 2010 and during that time he helped establish them as the best club side in the country, winning two FAI Intermediate Cup titles as well as two MSL Premier division league titles.
He then moved on to coach UCC from 2010 to 2013 and while there he led them to the Collingwood Cup and promotion to the MSL Premier Division in 2011.
From there he moved to City in November 2013 and since then, the winning has continued. He is Cork City's most decorated manager ever.
Prior to yesterday's FAI Cup final he had led the team to a league title in 2017, four times they have finished runners-up to Dundalk in the league, they have won three President's Cup, European qualification has happened each and every year since he took over, and now he has lead to the club to it's fourth cup final in a row.
No manager has led Cork City to four cup finals in a row, although Cork Athletic did in from 1950 to 1953. They won two and lost two of those finals. Same as this Cork City side.
Only Cork Hibernians in 1972 and 1973 can match City’s achievement in winning back-to-back FAI Cups, Prior to his taking over Cork had only won the cup two times in 1998 and 2007 in their previous 20 years.
Since he took over as the manager of the club in 2014, prior to yesterday, Caulfield has only lost two games in the FAI Cup competition They were the 2015 FAI Cup final against Dundalk, when Richie Towell scored an extra-time winner and the other time was against Bohs after a replay in 2014, when Dinny Corcoran fired in the winner at Dalymount Park.
That’s an incredible run of form in the FAI Cup and one that may never be repeated.
Despite the loss yesterday Caulfield has still done a great job.
He has proven to be a great manager at the club.
Even as a player with Cork, Caulfield was a winner. His goalscoring prowess was legendary as was his partnership up front with Pat Morley.
Caulfield played for City 455 times, scored 129 goals, he has started more games than any other player in the club's history with 376 starts to his name, he has also come off the bench the most times, 79.
During this time he won a Premier League title in 1992/93 and an FAI Cup final in 1997/98. He has also been the league's top scorer in 1991-92 and again in 1994-95 seasons.
He was also a winner during his brief spell as a Gaelic footballer with the Cork junior footballers. In 1990 he won the All-Ireland and Munster junior football titles.
When he took over Cork City in 2013 he was only the club's second full-time manager after Tommy Dunne, who was appointed by Foras when they took over the running of the club in 2010.
Dunne did a great job in the club's first year playing under the Foras banner helping them to finish sixth. The following year in 2011 he led them to the title winning the league on the last day of the season up in Tolka Park when Graham Cummins' late winner set of scenes of wild celebration.
The club's first year back in the Premier Division in 2012 they finished sixth, but in August 2013 Tommy Dunne was sacked.
After a wide search the club chose John Caulfield and today he celebrates five years in the job.
Cork City finished second in his first year in charge, second in his second and third and last year eventually won the league, while this year they were second again behind Dundalk. Cup finals and success has followed as well.
How has he managed to achieve this? What makes him so different to other Cork City managers? How has he been so successful?
Caulfield is ruthless and runs the first team his way. If you disagree with his style of play or tactics, then you will find yourself out of the team and or even out of the club.
Just ask Anthony Elding, (the first) and Josh O’Hanlon (most recent) what happens when you fall out with the manager.
Caulfield is totally confident in his beliefs as a coach and while we all may disagree with his tactics at times, there is no denying he has been the best Cork City manager ever.
Part of the reason for this success is that he constantly changes his squad. He regularly moves players in and out for a variety of reasons, but at all times he believes it is for the betterment of his squad.
Look at the numbers.
He will do more of the same over the next few weeks.
In season 2014-15 he signed 14 players including Alan Bennett and Liam Miller and moved on 14. In 2015-16 he signed 13 new players including Sean Maguire, Steven Beattie and Gearoid Morrissey, while at the same time let go 15 players.
In 2016-17 he again signed 17 new players including Jimmy Keohane and Conor McCormack, while released 18. This season just ended he introduced 15 players to the club and let 11 go.
His team and squad have been constantly evolving and it needed to be to keep pace with Dundalk, who for the record will probably go down as one of the greatest league of Ireland squads ever assembled.
Caulfield has been able to do this and keep Cork challenging because of his ability to keep evolving and because the club is run very professionally off the pitch these days. Foras have been superb in their handling of the club's finances.
Turnover in 2017 was €2.7 million and this year it will be even more, but it also costs more to maintain and run the club.
In the past two years turnover has increased by 75% and off the field, staff have increased by more than 250% in those two years as the club hires new personnel to help with the day to day demands of running a full-time professional club.
Cork is only one of three clubs that pay their players 52 weeks of the year. Let’s hope they can continue to do this for the players.
Consistency on and off the pitch has played its part in Cork and Caulfield’s success.
Let's look at how consistent Cork has been in the Caulfield era. In 2014 they won 22 of their 33 league games to finish second, in 2015 they won 19 of their 33 games to finish second again, in 2016 they won 21 of their 33 league games to finish second, while in 2017 Cork City won 24 of their 33 league games to win the league title.
This year from their 36 league games they have won 24 times to finish runners up.
Over the past five seasons, John Caulfield's team have only lost 17 times from 168 league games That is an incredible record.
And one that he should receive great credit and acclaim for, but like all success, it ends the minute it happens.
Right now Cork are in a different place to this time last year.
Particularly, so, with regards to the playing budget, which has been cut by €300,000. And I know Caulfield may say this hurts the whole clubs, as in the underage squads too etc, but the bulk if not all will be cut from his playing squad budget.
That’s a lot of cash to lose and will affect a lot of players, both in contract and those looking for a new contract.
It works out at €5,770 a week over 52 weeks or €7,500 a week if City revert back to paying their players for only 40 weeks of the year.
Caulfield for the first time in his City career as manager will have to work with a reduced budget.
Every other year his budget has increased, so assembling a new-look team to try to take down Dundalk, who are in a different world to Cork in terms of how they are run and by how they are backed by Peak6 Sports, the American Investment company, and also stay ahead of Shamrock Rovers, Waterford and Derry will be a very difficult task.
While we all may disagree with his defensive tactics and wish he sent his teams out with more focus on winning than not losing, there is no denying he has won the right to be the man to take the club forward for the next year and beyond.
2019 is going to be a different year with City in a different place on and off the park. Making them successful next year will be his greatest achievement.
But, don’t back against it.