Cobh Ramblers looks to fill in gaps in defence

Cobh Ramblers looks to fill in gaps in defence
Cobh Rambler's Matthew Whelan in a race for the ball with Waterford's Gary Delaney. Picture: Sean Byrne//Deise Sport

Noel Spillane

Soccer

COBH RAMBLERS have been thrown into a defensive crisis ahead of their league clash with promotion rivals Longford Town at St Colman’s Park on Saturday night (7.15pm).

Manager Stephen Henderson will be missing the spine of his back four with Ben O’Riordan ruled out with concussion and James McSweeney away on international duty with Jim Crawford’s Ireland U18’s at the eight-nation Slovakia Cup tournament.

Ireland face Russia, the Czech Republic and Turkey in the friendly tournament in Bratislava later this month but centre-half McSweeney is effectively ruled out of club commitments for a fortnight and will also miss the away game at Shelbourne at the end of the month.

Cork City midfielder Alec Byrne has been named n the squad too.

“It looks like we are going to have to say a few Hail Mary’s between now and kick-off because the two lads will be sorely missed tomorrow night.

They have established a really good partnership in defence and we will have to mix and match for the Longford game. Cian Kingston can come in and play there and Ryan Hogan is another possibility though he has a hip flexor injury and our skipper Chris McCarthy is stil out with an on-going ankle ligament injury that needs to be looked at too.

“We are up the creek in a way and it’s going to be a struggle to patch up the back four. I just hope we don’t pick up any more injuries at training now,” added Henderson who is delighted with McSweeey’s call-up to the Irish squad.

Cobh beat Longford 3-1 away earlier in the year but the midlanders have improved since then and lie sixth in the table on nine points from eight matches.

Cobh are joint second with UCD on 14 points each from eight games played with Waterford top of the pile on 17 points.

“Longford have turned things around since we played them last at City Calling Stadium on March 4 and they are unbeaten in their last three games beating Shels’ 3-1 last weekend and drawing nil-all with both Wexford away and home to Waterford. They are on a decent run again and I still rate them in the promotion race,” added Henderson who admitted his own side looked a bit jaded in their 2-1 EA Sports Cup defeat at the Waterford RSC.

“The Munster derby against Waterford took a fair bit out of us after a physical game and despite the win down in Wexford last weekend we looked a bit tired by the end of it. I don’t think we’d recovered from the Wexford game before we were back on the road to Waterford on the bank holiday Monday. All we can do now is put that aside and go again tomorrow night,” he said.

Ramblers may be weakened a bit defensively but they have match winners in Matthew Whelan, Ian Mylod, Cian Coleman, Craig Donnellan, Jason Abbott and Stephen Christopher.

Ramblers will have midfield ace and former Avondale United star Karl Caulfield back in contention too.

Cobh won two of their last three outings and they are the First Division’s top scorers with 15 goals overall but they do have 11 in the goals against column tonight.

They have scored eight goals at home with three against and have managed to keep just once clean sheet so far in a 1-0 home win over University College, Dublin on April 1.

Cobh have back-to-back away games coming up at Shelbourne next weekend and Athlone Town on May 5 before they entertain Cabinteely in Cobh on Saturday, May 13 and after that run of fixtures manager Henderson and his assistant Stuart Ashton will have a fair idea of where they stand in terms of winning the title and gaining the one promotion spot on offer to First Division clubs this season.

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