A SCRAPPY second-half goal from Garry Buckley was enough to hand Cork City victory on Monday night against Finn Harps, a fitting strike for a game played under atrocious conditions at Balllybofey.
Not the best spectacle for those watching at home on RTÉ, but another step closer to the inevitable league title, despite manager John Caulfield fobbing off the evident narrative of City’s impending title as ‘rubbish talk’.
In the same post-match interview the City boss also referenced the ‘doom-and-gloom’ in the media following the departure of star striker Sean Maguire, the irony not lost on pundit Richie Sadlier.
“On one hand to say there’s doom-and-gloom, and then on the other to say about the rubbish talk about winning the league, whether it’s anxiety or what I don’t know, but it’s just part of the job.
“We were asking before the game if the players have anxiety, but if you look at league table it’s a phenomenal position. I can understand John Caulfield’s frustration; publicly everyone has been taking their foot off the gas six to eight weeks ago, and the worry was will the players buy into that.
“It’s not really a necessary win if you look at the league table. It’ll stop the talk publicly that they’re not dealing with their current position well, but what a position to be in.
“Even the talk before a ball was kicked this season the talk was all about pushing on from their cup win and winning the league, and having finished runners-up for the past three years, they really spoke positively and optimistically about winning the title ahead of the season.”
The game’s talking point that scrappy City strike; Garry Buckley appearing to kick Ciarán Gallagher’s arm in scoring, however Sadlier focused more on whether the goalkeeper had control of the ball, rather than the point of contact.
“It was going to be a war of a match and it was,” surmised City boss Caulfield in his post-match interview. “We played well and had lots of chances. Despite all the doom and gloom, when we beat Dundalk at the start of June we were 18 points clear, we’re now 17 clear, so despite apparently not playing well we’ve only lost a point.
“Obviously we’ve gone through a spell where we haven’t put away as many chances as we should have, tonight we got by with a scrappy goal, but we created plenty of chances.”
A reminder by interviewer Tony O’Donoghue about the loss of Messrs Maguire and O’Connor, which the manager added to. “We also lost John Dunleavy to a season-long injury, but we kept our head down which is what we have to do. Our guys had to get their head back into it after the last few games, which is what we talked about last Friday.
“We had 80-100 fans on a wet weekday night, and our support has been phenomenal. Even when we lost last week against Sligo their support was great, everyone knows it’s coming soon, and the team is giving them great value.”
The talk inevitably turned to a mouth-watering next few weeks for the Rebel Army, with more ‘rubbish talk’ continuing as the panel looked at what point City could hypothetically win the league. The focus on the home game against Dundalk, however one presumes all involved had forgotten that the Lilywhites have a League Cup final the following day, and a re-fixed date has yet to be set.
And once that’s achieved, former Derry City player and manager Declan Devine sees no reason why the Rebel Army can’t go on and ‘do the double’ by capturing the Cup – in actual fact a final win in November would be City’s fourth trophy of the season.
“We all feel the league is in the bag, I’m sure there’ll be a real focus on the cup. Cork people love a day out and no better place for it than the Aviva Stadium, and with the league already wrapped up, there’s no excuse for focusing on the double.”