CORK City’s loyal and devoted fans will be expecting a goals glut when the Cup holders take on lowly first division side, Athlone Town in their Irish Daily Mail sponsored FAI Cup, second round tie at Turner’s Cross tonight (7.45pm).
It was the best possible draw for John Caulfield’s team as they bid to retain the trophy they won at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last November and get themselves into Monday’s quarter-final draw.
Roddy Collins’ side are in fear of having to seek re-election to the national league at the of the season and they had seven goals put past them in the midlands derby by Neale Fenn’s improving Longford Town last week.
Obviously Cork are the raging hot favourites to reach the last eight and with some of the big guns like Bohemians, Derry City and Sligo Rovers already knocked out of this year’s competition, the Leesiders will be in no mood for a shock giant-killing act.
“Athlone rested five of their best players last week with Enda Curran, Niall Scullion, Stephen Walsh, Conor Rafferty and David Brookes all out of the team and they only fielded half a team for the derby. They will all be back to face us tonight you can be sure of that.
“They are players with Premier Division experience at clubs like Galway and Derry and they will field a much stronger team against us. The onus is on us as the home team and the Cup holders to go and win the game and we want to reach the quarter-finals again in the hope of getting another home draw,” said Caulfield whose side haven’t scored in their last two home matches.
“I feel last Monday night’s win up at Finn Harps could be a turning point for us for the rest of the season and while we only scored the one goal again, we created lots of chances and that was encouraging, to say the least.
“It was a good win for us and our focus, concentration and confidence is back again as a team and that’s something we spoke about this week,” added Caulfield who has Robbie Williams, Achille Campion, Alan Bennett ad Stephen Dooley all on the doubtful list.
Caulfield will make a few changes again with Greg Bolger, Conor McCarthy and Connor Ellis all expected to line out tonight and the manager is hoping to have wide man Stephen Dooley back in the frame as well.
“All the boys want to play every week and that’s understandable but sometimes you need to rest one or two and you might need to freshen things up.
We will treat Athlone like all our other opponents and we will field a strong team against them. We need to get back to where we were earlier in the season and that win on Monday night has us back on the right road,” added Caulfield who wasn’t put out by recent criticism of his team and their results.
“No... the lads take the applause, the praise and the credits when they are doing well but we all know the two performances and two home defeats to Bohs and Sligo were unacceptable. We put our hands up and said that it wasn’t good enough and perhaps we got a little side tracked there.
"We are confident we can do it shortly and we are eager to get over the line and finish the job. The fans may have been a bit over-enthusiastic and eager to clinch it too and I can understand that too.
"Obviously the sooner we get the job done the better and then we can all focus on the FAI Cup and trying to get back to the Aviva Stadium again.
"There is something special about the FAI Cup and we have been in the final for the last two years and experienced the sheer disappointment of losing and the utter elation and celebration of winning on Cup final day. We want to make it three in-a-row this season and hopefully we can retain the trophy and do the double.
"We have been close to winning lots of trophies in our history but we didn't and we want to try and change that with a league title and a possible league and Cup double but no one, and that includes Athlone Town, wants to give us anything easy," he added.