CORK CITY manager John Caulfield didn’t mince his words on Monday night in the immediate aftermath of the 3-0 loss to Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium.
While the reigning champions hadn’t conceded a goal in winning their previous four league games, the concession of two goals inside 25 minutes of the start of the game always left them chasing and once Rovers added a third on the hour, that was that.
Asked if Alan Bennett – fit again after a long period out with injury – will come back into the reckoning for Saturday’s clash with Limerick, Caulfield pretty much declared every position to be up for grabs.
“I think if you were sitting on the bench tonight or sitting in the stand, you were saying to yourself, ‘I want to be playing Saturday because I can perform much better than the lads performed tonight’” he said.
“I keep saying with the lads at the moment that there’s no guarantee of anyone’s position. We’ll review and look at everything over the next couple of days but certainly, all the boys that didn’t play will say, ‘John, I need to be in, that wasn’t good enough,’ and it wasn’t.”
From that, one might expect wholesale changes for the Munster derby at Turner’s Cross on Saturday.
In any case, some alteration would be expected if not inevitable. While Caulfield has a reputation for being conservative in selection, only twice this season – Rovers at home and Limerick away, coincidentally, and then the back-to-back home wins over St Patrick’s Athletic and Sligo Rovers, has he gone with unchanged sides in 14 league games.
Goalkeper Mark McNulty and captain Conor McCormack in midfield are the only players to start every game in the same position, while the sea-change in the back four has been highlighted.
Up front, Graham Cummins has been first-choice when available – Karl Sheppard was the centre-forward when Cummins was suspended at home to Waterford – while, aside from McCormack, the other four midfield spots have seen a rotating cast of six players.
Sheppard has played right and left wing as well as up front, Jimmy Keohane has been in both midfield lines (and came on left-back on Monday night) and Barry McNamee has rotated between the right and centre of the attacking midfield trio.
Excluding the long-term injury victim John Dunleavy, City have a first-team squad of 21 and of that group, back-up goalkeeper Peter Cherrie, Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, on-loan Preston striker Michael Howard and Josh O’Hanlon are the players waiting to make their first league starts, with Danny Kane having made his bow last week against Dundalk.
Kane and McCormack were the players brought off at half-time on Monday night as Keohane and Karl Sheppard came on, while Gearóid Morrissey’s injury meant that O’Hanlon came on for the final half-hour as City went 4-4-2.
Depending on Morrissey’s fitness, Caulfield could be forced into a midfield change anyway, but we do wonder if he might try a bit of pop psychology and go with the same side as Monday, demanding that they show him why they were given his faith in the first place.