ALTHOUGH it is still too early in the season to be defined as a must-win game, Cobh Ramblers could really do with a victory away to Cabinteely this evening.
The First Division table is starting to take shape and Ramblers will not want to be left too far behind.
Although this is an improved Cobh side on last season, every other team in the division has also improved significantly, highlighting how tough the challenge is for all the teams to get into the top flight.
Stuart Ashton is doing a very decent job with limited resources, one could argue, especially when you consider there are a couple of full-time teams in the division.
Cobh will face a Cabinteely side that won on the road impressively against table-toppers Athlone Town last week.
Looking ahead to tonight’s game, Ashton outlined how his side will look to bounce backfrom the defeat last week against Galway United.
“We have to move on. We were disappointed, but we will lick our wounds so to speak. The lads were disappointed, especially because of the way they played.
Last week I think, for 80 minutes, we were the better side. But unfortunately, we got nothing for it and at the end of the day that is what counts in football.”
The Dublin side somehow always go under the radar in terms of promotion, but they have been a firm player in that picture in recent years.
In Pat Devlin, Cabinteely have a manager of vast experience. This will be his 35th year as a manager in League Of Ireland football. He won the First Division with Bray Wanderers in the inaugural season of the second tier in 1986.
Cabinteely have added impressively to their backroom staff with Collie O’Neill coming on board. He was manager of a very talented UCD side that won the First Division title in 2018.
The Dublin side have had a mixed record at home in their opening two games at Stradbrook; a win over Cork City and a loss to Shelbourne.
Although they are a young squad overall, a well-drilled Cabinteely side can also look to the experienced Kevin Knight and Kieran Marty Waters.
They are an outfit that is very capable of flying in under the radar and ruffling the feathers of the main promotion contenders.
Recent meetings between Cabinteely and Cobh have seen the Dublin side edge the battles.
Last season Cabinteely won both clashes with Ramblers, including at St Colman’s Park when a 94th-minute winner by Marty Waters gave them a 2-1 win.
The last time Ramblers recorded a win over Cabinteely was in 2018 when Cian Leonard netted in a 1-0 home victory. Ramblers also won in Stradbrook that season when an Adam O’Sullivan goal helped Cobh gain three points.
Ramblers have had a number of injury concerns in recent weeks. Pierce Phillips, whose influence in the middle of the park is vital, is among those who look likely to miss the game.
Ben O’Riordan and Stephen O’Leary also missed the Galway game last week because of injury concerns.
It is yet to be confirmed if Caelin Rooney, Darren Murphy, and Conor Drinan have recovered from their knocks, while Regix Madika is a long-term absentee with injury.
One look at the results, including two 4-0 defeats, suggests that Cobh Ramblers have had a difficult start to the 2021 campaign. But the performance against Galway deserved more than how the full-time score read.
However, football is a results business and Cobh will want to start picking up some more positive results to avoid being left too far behind in the main promotion race.
With games against Athlone Town, Shelbourne, UCD, and Cork City all to come in their next four outings after this evening’s clash, it goes to show how competitive and tough the challenges that lie in store for Ramblers are.