IT'S the most basic thing to say, but it doesn’t make it any less relevant: Cork City need to score more goals if they are to overhaul Dundalk.
The league champions scored 85 goals in their 36 league games, an average of 2.36 per match, while City’s total of 71 equates to 1.97.
In each of the five seasons where the clubs have dominated the top two spots in the Premier Division, the Lilywhites have scored more.
That was the case even last year, when City finished seven points clear at the top – they scored 67 compared to 72 for Stephen Kenny’s side, though it’s worth nothing that, when Seán Maguire departed, City had scored 57 goals in 21 games (2.71 ppg) to 47 in 22 for Dundalk (2.13 ppg).
The easy suggestion is to go out and find another Maguire, though of course that’s far easier said than done, but being able to find goals from somewhere – anywhere – when they are needed is invaluable
The 0-0 home draw with Shamrock Rovers in July is a perfect case in point of a game where any kind of goal was essential, especially after the missed penalty, but it just didn’t materialise.
While Dundalk drew blanks in three of their first five league games, they didn’t do it again in the remaining 31 outings.
The sources of the goals is worth looking at. Before Shane Daly-Bütz came off the bench to score his goal for the club, the third in the 3-0 win away to Derry City last month, the last substitute to do so in the league was Ronan Coughlan in the 5-0 home victory against the Candystripes on July 23, coincidentally also his first City goal.
Aside from Kieran Sadlier (26) and Graham Cummins (18), no other player reached double figures in terms of goals scored across all competitions, with Karl Sheppard and Garry Buckley both finishing on nine while Josh O’Hanlon got eight with Barry McNamee scoring seven.
If Sadlier is to depart as expected, it leaves vacancies of terms of chances created and taken, while O’Hanlon and McNamee are also unlikely to be at the club next season. Under John Caulfield, City will always have a mean defence – after Dundalk’s 20 conceded, City and Shamrock Rovers were next on 27, with Waterford (44) in fourth – and while that will ensure being in the mix, in itself it isn’t enough on its own to get over the line.
In 2014, City finished two points behind Dundalk, conceding 25 to the Lilywhites’ 24, but in terms of goals it was 73 to 51 for Dundalk.
In the games between the clubs, the aggregate scoreline was 8-1 for the Louth side as they achieved three victories.
Contrast that with 2017, when City won twice against Dundalk and drew the other game, outscoring them by six to one.
This year, that total was 4-2 for Dundalk across four games.
Plain and simple as it sounds, it all comes down to goals.