TONIGHT: SSE Airtricity League
Premier Division: Dundalk v Cork City, 7.35pm. Live on RTÉ 2
THE World Cup has wisely taken a break as Cork City return to Premier Division fare. It’s the toughest game possible for John Caulfield’s side.
Cork City went into the week-off on the back of seven straight wins, which left them a point ahead of Dundalk at the top of the table. There’s no good reason why the time off should affect the run of form or cause rustiness and City assistant manager, John Cotter, expects a strong performance.
“It can work both ways,” he says. “Maybe, some days, the adrenaline will get you through. The intensity and the atmosphere can get players through, too.
“We just have to go up and do what we’re good at: be solid, be strong, hopefully create a few chances, and hopefully get the win.”
There is a widely-held perception that Dundalk play better football than City. If it bothers anyone within the Cork camp, it’s not a feeling that’s given oxygen.
“That has no bearing. At the end of the day,” Cotter says, “this game is about winning.
“If people want to say Dundalk play better football, that’s fine, but we’re top of the table and that’s what matters.
“It’s just about going up there on Friday and, hopefully, getting a good result for ourselves.”
While City won 4-2 at Oriel Park in the President’s Cup in February, the league visit to Dundalk, in March, resulted in a 1-0 defeat.
While goalkeeper, Mark McNulty, was at fault for Patrick Hoban’s goal, his other saves prevented the game from resulting in a heavier City defeat.
Cotter says that game won’t weigh on minds, though, even though not much went right.
“You move on fairly quickly,” he says. “You have to: we had Shamrock Rovers a few days later.
“You talk about it for a bit, but you move on again, then. Everyone here is under no illusions that we didn’t play well that night. We know that for a fact; nobody needs to tell us that.
“The players know better than anyone that they didn’t perform that night and they rectified that at Turner’s Cross when they got a 1-0 win.
“We’ve a fairly decent record up there, over the last few years anyway, so, hopefully, we can go up and perform to our abilities and concentrate on ourselves. If we do that, then I’ve no doubt we’ll be alright.”
At the outset of the season, people were anticipating a more open title race. In the past four seasons, Dundalk and City have held a duopoly on the top two spots. While Waterford challenged for a while this year, they now sit 15 points behind Dundalk.
Cotter feels that the rivalry has helped City and Dundalk to bring out the best in each other.
“We’ve had it since we came in, in 2014, and no other club has got near to breaking it, really,” he says.
“It’s a rivalry you need; you need someone to drive you on and I’ve no doubt they’ll be thinking the same. All great sides have a side to rival with and it’s great. These games are always intense, on and off the field and in the crowd. They always have an extra edge to them.
“It’s great, it’s why you’re involved here. I’ve no doubt all the players want to be playing in it, but, at the same time, it’s only three points on offer, like when we played Bohemians before the break. Another week, another three points.”
And that’s the message, especially with a Champions League tie, against Legia Warsaw, looming on the horizon.
“Absolutely, we’ll be driving that home, we wouldn’t even be thinking of that,” Cotter says.
“We’ve two huge games. Our main focus, at the moment, is on Friday and, once that’s over, we’ll be dealing with Shamrock Rovers.
“It’s when you start looking ahead to whatever games are coming up, that’s when you start dropping stupid points.We just have to make sure we’re all focused on Friday.”