SATURDAY, SSE Airtricity League Premier Division: Cork City v Limerick, Turner’s Cross, 2pm.
NO Friday night lights for a change but instead it’s Saturday afternoon fare at Turner’s Cross as Cork City look to bounce back from Monday night’s comprehensive loss at Shamrock Rovers.
It was a third league defeat of the season for John Caulfield’s side, having also gone down away to Dundalk and Waterford, but a key feature of City’s response to those setbacks has been the ability to win the next games, against Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic respectively.
Those of a superstitious bent might be slightly worried: the last time the club lost two successive league games was in September 2017, against Limerick and Rovers, and the last time before that was August 2015 – also against Limerick and Rovers.
The consolation is that talent and quality outweigh piseogs and while City did lose 3-0 on Monday, before that they had recorded four straight league wins without conceding a goal, despite the fact that the defence had changed completely since the start of the season.
In contrast, Limerick’s form has dipped and a win away to bottom side Bray Wanderers last Friday is their only victory since March 9, with Tommy Barrett’s side currently residing in the second-from-bottom play-off spot.
Having begun brightly at home to Derry on Monday night, they eventually wound up losing 3-0 to the Candystripes. Despite all of that though, they still have a number of good players, as they showed in earning a 1-1 draw at home to City on March 16.
Former City U19 player Cian Coleman was outstanding in midfield that night and he will bolster them as he returns having missed the Bray and Derry games following a red card in the draw away to Shamrock Rovers.
Another familiar face, Billy Dennehy, scored the Limerick goal in the Markets Field in March after a great run from left-back and he too comes back into Barrett’s plans after a ban for five yellow cards.
Other former City men include Shane Duggan in midfield and strikers Danny Morrissey and Mark O’Sullivan. Billy Dennehy’s brother Darren Dennehy should be back in defence after an ankle injury while Connor Ellis remains a doubt with a groin problem.
Regardless of how strong or weak Limerick are or how many former City players they have, the home side know that they must produce a performance superior to that which was given in Tallaght on Monday night, as they couldn’t capitalise on the momentum from Friday’s win over Dundalk.
Manager John Caulfield will expect a statement of intent to show that it was a one-off, but at the same time he wasn’t making any rash calls in the wake of Monday.
“Whether we won or didn’t Friday night or tonight or we didn’t the team are still in a good position” he said.
“We still have a lot to do, we know that and it can be difficult for younger players but, at the same time, some of our older players didn’t do well either!
“You can prepare and warn and show strengths of other teams but you have to be ready on the night to go from the start. That first 20 minutes, we weren’t in the game and it was effectively over.”
The big question is to what extent, if at all, he makes changes to the starting line-up. Gearóid Morrissey was forced off with a groin injury against Rovers but Caulfield put that down to the build-up of matches in a short time as much as anything, while Shane Griffin, who hasn’t played since an injury (groin also) in the win away to Bohemians a fortnight ago, may be fit.
A Saturday afternoon fixture and expected good weather should ensure a good crowd and with Dundalk away to third-placed Waterford tonight, there is a chance that a win would once again restore City to top spot on their own.
They can only focus on themselves but the home form has been excellent, with six games yielding six wins and still no goals against. While Monday was disappointing, there is no reason why there can’t be a strong rebuttal.