THE mutual admiration society that exists between John Caulfield and Finn Harps' wily boss Ollie Horgan rolls into Turner’s Cross tonight, and for 90 minutes league action, this long-standing friendship will be on hold.
It’s a top versus near bottom clash and the odds are stacked against the Donegal side up against a Cork team chasing a 12th successive win and hoping to close in further on Bohemians’ 16-match record set back in 1924/25.
“Ollie Horgan is one of the game’s true survivors and a wily old manager. He’s doing a fabulous job up there with limited resources. He got them promoted a few years ago and he kept them up last year when they were being tipped to go down and now with three to go down at the end of the season, he’s facing into another big job.
“Last year we scrapped a late winner and a 1-0 win up there and it was the exactly the same at the start of this season when we had a one-nil away win up in Ballybofey on a horrible night, weather-wise and Seanie Maguire’s goal for us the three points.
Harps will be a typically Ollie-type team, well organised, physically strong and very passionate and I can see them surviving the dreaded drop,” said Caulfield on the eve of the game.
Caulfield’s assistant John Cotter, taking the weekly press conference, said that City’s hardest game so far was that opening night fixture on February 24 last at Finn Park.
“Our hardest game of the eleven we have played to date was probably the opening match away to Finn Harps which we won one-nil.
"The conditions were dreadful and the pitch had to have three pitch inspections before it was passed playable in the end.
"It was very heavy underfoot but it was a great three points for us and a clean sheet on the road,” recalled Cotter.
“Ballybofey is never an easy place to go to and get a result and playing Harps at home tonight will be another tough game and probably just as hard as that opening night victory.
We have a job to do at home but we are under no illusions about it. It’s week-by-week for us and we never look too far ahead. We are in the zone at the moment and you can never question the lads’ attitude it is so good.
“They drive one another on and it’s one of the best bunches of players I have been involved with in terms of quality and standard-wise. We have that bit of maturity too and we always believe that we can score goals,” he added.
“It helps to have a few experienced heads as well in Alan Bennett, Mark McNulty, Greg Bolger, Karl Sheppard, Conor McCormack and Johnny Dunleavy in and around the place. They all help to keep the younger lads grounded,” added Cotter.
It will be a big occasion for City’s Johnny Dunleavy up against his home town club and he is really looking forward to it.
“Harps have an injury crisis and they have Barry Molloy suspended but we can’t let that deflect us away from our top priority and that is the three points tonight. I am sure the lads that have come in during their injuries want to prove themselves and there’s no way that Harps will send out a second rate or under-strength team.
“Whoever plays against us will want to impress and they will present us with a few problems so it’s up to us to break them down and get the goal or goals to win the match.
"It could be another tough night for us even with home advantage, we will have to be patient and we will need the crowd right behind us from the kick-off,” said Dunleavy, who is under no illusions about the task at hand.
Harps are four points off the bottom on 11 points from 11 games played so far and a point ahead of Sligo Rovers, with St Pat’s on nine and basement dwellers, Galway United on eight with a game (away to Derry) in hand.
After tonight’s league action, Cork are away to bottom club Galway United at Eamon Deacy Park on this night week and with defending champions Dundalk away to Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght this evening, the gap at the top could quite feasibly widen this weekend.