CORK City manager John Caulfield is optimistic that the league champions can maintain their good form for the visit of Waterford, who will have former Irish international Noel Hunt in the dugout as assistant manager, to Turner’s Cross tonight (7.45pm).
Second-placed City go into the game eight points ahead of Waterford, in third, and with a game in hand, having won their last three league ties — at home to Bray Wanderers, and away to Limerick and St Patrick’s Athletic.
Those games have seen an upturn in form and Caulfield believes the team is beginning to gel impressively.
“At the end of the day, you’ve a back four that was under 23, really,” he says.
“I know Benno came in and has played a handful of games, but it takes a lot of work. People just assume that players are going to step up from the U19s or from non-league football and they’re going to hit the ground running and be brilliant week after week, but it doesn’t happen that way.
“It’s just concentration and focus and the new boys have come in and understood what Cork is about, what the pressure is, the media coverage, that’s something they’ve never encountered before because we’re unique down here.
“There’s a lot more gelling, you can see we’ve created a lot more chances over the last three or four weeks. We feel we’re playing much better but I felt from early on that that was going to happen.”
One of those really starring of late has been midfielder Jimmy Keohane, who scored against Pat’s. The Kilkenny man is benefiting from a sustained spell in the middle and Caulfield hasn’t been surprised at how well he has done.
“He’s had to play in different positions,” he says, “but that guy has never once said to me, ‘John, I don’t want to play there,’ he’s just played wherever we’ve asked him. He’s had a run of four or five games in the number 8 role, which is probably one of his better positions, he’s scored more goals.
“Jimmy is one of those unsung heroes, he’s a brilliant person, a fantastic lad and tremendous skill. That’s why all the guys in that dressing room with him know how good he is and how valuable he is.”