WITH a draw and two defeats, Cork City have lost form at the worst time.
On Friday night, they will look to keep the title race alive, as Dundalk visit Turner’s Cross (7.15pm). A win would close the gap to three points, but the Lilywhites still have a game in hand and better goal difference.
Cork manager, John Caulfield, is keen not to get too glum, with the focus only on turning in a performance.
“There are six weeks to go in the season,” he says. “We’re second in the table, we’re in the FAI Cup semi-final, we have already qualified for Europe and, as a management team, we want to keep pushing and pushing.
“That’s what we’ve been doing, year on year and, as I keep saying, your next game is your most important game. All we can do on Friday is see if we can win the match and that’s what we’re looking at. We’ll see where that takes us, after that. We haven’t spoken about anything else this week, only giving a performance.”
With poor results come criticism, and this is a test of character.
“Obviously, guys were really disappointed,” Caulfield says.
“The performance was poor and we made a lot of individual mistakes. As a team, we didn’t do enough. It’s sore for the lads and, as I keep saying, it’s something that you have to learn sometimes. Players playing down in Cork probably don’t understand the pressure and they’re coming to understand it.
“As a management team, we know it and sometimes you have to be patient. Maybe the reaction some of the players took after the game was sore and in no other club in Ireland would you get it.
“No matter how you explain it, sometimes they have to feel it and see it, but the most important thing is that you have to bounce back and we’ve been working on doing that and giving a true performance.”
And the likelihood of changes to the squad next season?
“The first thing you have to say is that we’re a supporter-owned club,” he says.
“We’re not for profit, we’re part of the community. We got a lot of local sponsorship. To some, it’s about winning trophies; to others, it’s about qualifying for Europe; to others, it’s about bringing players through from the academy; to others, it’s about getting rid of the debt and building a sustainable future; other people, it’s about being involved with local schools and charities.
“For me, the management and the board, it’s about all of those things, building the club up. Will we have new players at the club next year? Of course we will.
"Will some players move on? They will, that’s inevitable, because, every year, you have to freshen up the team and we’ve identified areas where we need to strengthen.
“We’re moving forward, things are going really well, we don’t have the finance of other clubs or we won’t have that, but that is never an issue.
“What we have is people who will put their shoulder to the wheel and drive on. We have spirit and a bond and motivation. From that point of view, you will always change your team and bring in guys every year. Ultimately, it’s about bringing more young players through.”