FRIDAY: SSE Airtricity League First Division: Cork City v Galway United, Turner’s Cross, 7.45pm.
WHEN the First Division fixtures were released, every Cork City supporter would have looked to see when John Caulfield would be bringing his Galway United team to Turner’s Cross.
Caulfield is possibly the most successful manager in the club’s history. He won the double with the club in 2017, the FAI Cup in 2016, and had a very successful run in Europe in 2017. He took the team from mediocre to the best in the country. He achieved all of this while competing against a Dundalk team that were arguably the best in League of Ireland history.
Although Caulfield will still have a lot of affection for City, he will be desperate to see his Galway side beat them, and who can blame him. For all his success at City, he will feel that he wasn’t given time to turn things around before he was dismissed in 2019. He would love to prove to those who let him go that they were wrong.
City come into the game in good form and should be confident, after their scoreless draw against UCD. In that game, City manager, Colin Healy, changed formation and went with a 3-5-2, and it will be interesting to see if he goes with it again this week, to match Galway, who also play a 3-5-2.
Healy made the correct call. UCD try and keep the ball and are good enough to play through the middle. The City boss knew that if he had gone with a 4-4-2, they would have been outnumbered in the middle of the pitch and, more than likely, UCD would have dominated the game.
Also, the UCD Bowl is probably the biggest pitch in the League of Ireland, which means teams must play with three in the middle. It’s too difficult for just the two.
This game will be different, and Healy does have a choice to make with his formation.
Turner’s Cross is a small pitch, making it easier to play 4-4-2, and, unlike UCD, Galway won’t look to play through the middle of the pitch as much and will be more direct.
Galway tend to hit a lot of diagonal balls. Looking at the City defence, I would expect them to be working on isolating Ronan Hurley, because of his size.
Hurley had his best game this season against UCD, but when it to comes to competing against Hurley or Cian Coleman in the air, the choice is simple.
City have kept three consecutive clean sheets and a lot of that is down to the right-hand side of their defence.
Gordon Walker has been excellent since gaining his place back and Coleman has had his best performances playing in defence. If City revert to a four-man defence, I would still expect a lot of high balls to be coming down the left-hand side.
I think Jonas Hakkinen has struggled under high balls in games this year. I admire him for wanting to do the difficult thing and take high balls down and try and play.
However, sometimes the simplest solution is the best thing to do and he needs to learn that just winning his headers is important, especially in the First Division.
Alec Byrne was forced off with injury against UCD. Healy described his hamstring injury as 'touch and go' as to whether he will be fit enough to feature against Galway. In my experience, even if it was only a tight hamstring, I would be very doubtful he will be available.
That means Gearoid Morrissey should start. Galway’s strength is in the middle of the pitch, with players like Conor McCormack, Shane Duggan, and David Hurley. That, again, is why I think Healy will go with three in the middle to match Galway, instead of playing 4-4-2.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Healy will stick to 3-5-2. He could be tempted to go 4-3-3, because it’s a system that Galway have struggled against this season, most notably in their 3-1 defeat away to Athlone Town.
Steven Beattie and George Heaven will miss out through injury and Cory Galvin has left the club.
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