Cork City have recruited well for First Division but need to add firepower

Denis Hurley looks at the squad Colin Healy has assembled for 2021
Cork City have recruited well for First Division but need to add firepower

Cork's Gearoid Morrissey with Joao Morelli of Levadia in a Europa League tie. Picture: INPHO/Liis Treimann

WHILE Cork City are having to cut their cloth according to their means, new manager Colin Healy has nevertheless managed to assemble what will be one of the stronger squads in the SSE Airtricity League First Division.

Currently, with 23 players signed, there is depth in all areas and, positively from the manager’s point of view, he has been able to retain a large chunk of the 2020 squad.

Obviously, that comes with the large caveat that 2020 saw City relegated and so the players have something to prove, but the motivation to get the club back into the top flight should be strong.

Loan players Joseph Olowu, Deshane Dalling and Kit Elliott have gone back to Arsenal, Queens Park Rangers and Huddersfield Town respectively while another Englishman, Henry Ochieng, has also departed following the expiry of his contract, along with goalkeeper Liam Bossin.

Beyond those, young starlets Jake O’Brien and Ricardo Dinanga have not signed with City but, as of now, have yet to join anyone else, either.

Going through the City squad by position shows that the former Republic of Ireland international will have quite a bit to work with. While Mark McNulty, now 40, reclaimed the starting spot from Bossin last year and has been retained as a player, it’s likely that his main focus will be as a coach. McNulty will still wear number 1, but 30-year-old Paul Hunt, formerly of Cobh Ramblers, and David Harrington (20), last year’s third-choice keeper, are set to battle for the starting spot.

Andre Wright of Bohemians scores his side's first goal past Cork City goalkeeper Mark McNulty. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Andre Wright of Bohemians scores his side's first goal past Cork City goalkeeper Mark McNulty. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

In defence, Uniss Kargbo emerged to make the right-back spot his own last year, first under Neale Fenn and then keeping his place after Healy took over. His ability to get forward is likely to be a vital asset in the first division, while Josh Honohan can play at right-back as well as centre-back.

Rob Slevin had a frustrating year in parts, having to bide his time and then playing in a number of different positions but his retention is a show of faith by Healy and one would expect him to feature at centre-back. Ronan Hurley is likely to be the starting left-back, but beyond that the squad doesn’t have any other natural defenders, though some – like Steven Beattie – can play there. The fact the number five has yet to be assigned means that another acquisition or two – or perhaps O’Brien’s re-signing – is in the offing.

The midfield area would look to be City’s strongest from the point of view of experience. 

Gearóid Morrissey and Beattie were of course part of the squad that won the double in 2017 while Cian Coleman has a lot of Premier Division experience and Alec Byrne has also done well there. Younger players like Dale Holland, Luke Desmond, Oran Crowe and James O’Leary will help to provide Healy with extra depth.

In the attacking midfield and wide areas, Dylan McGlade, Cian Bargary and Cory Galvin are all retained from last year along with Darragh Crowley, who can also play up front, as well as Seán Kennedy. Again, these are players who have played in the top flight who should have enough quality to keep City near the top of the first division table.

Up front, Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh and Cian Murphy are the two out-and-out centre-forwards. O’Brien-Whitmarsh has done well when given chances over the past two years and this is a great opportunity for him to properly stake his claim, showing intent by taking the number 9 shirt. Murphy is another talented player, but one unlucky with injury and keen to make up for lost time.


Ultimately, scoring goals is where City will rise or fall. In 2019, only 29 were scored across a 36-game season, while there were just ten netted in last year’s 18-game campaign. Putting the ball in the net is obviously the hardest part of football and sufficient firepower can overcome flaws elsewhere.

Scoring goals isn’t just on the attackers, as last year City suffered from an overall lack of creativity, despite the trialling of numerous different formations. Right now, Healy will be happy with the squad he has put together but it wouldn’t be a surprise if there were a few more additions.

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