FRIDAY: SSE Airtricity First Division: Cork City v Cabinteely, Turner’s Cross, 7.45pm.
IN years gone by, a First Division fixture between fifth and eighth in the table wouldn’t have drawn much attention.
However, after months of watching their team on television, 600 supporters will be allowed to attend Cork City’s game against Cabinteely. City are in desperate need of a victory to rejuvenate their play-off hopes.
Cabinteely, who occupy the final play-off spot, are six points ahead of Colin Healy’s side and only a victory will satisfy those supporters who are fortunate to attend the game.
The return of fans to Turner’s Cross could work in City’s favour, but it could also hinder them.
The players will be excited to play in front of fans, but will also be a little fearful of a backlash.
Going to games without supporters felt like watching a training-ground match. It was as if the result didn’t matter.
I’m sure it did matter to the players, but from viewing games, when the final whistle went and the crowds weren’t there to cheer or vent their frustration, it just felt as if there were no consequences to the result.
That will change for this game and although it won’t be the type of crowd we are used to in Turner’s Cross, just to have supporters back will make it a special occasion.
The enthusiasm of the fans who will get to witness City playing live for the first time in months will give the City players a much-needed lift.
The tempo of games this season has been lacking, but I expect that to change, now that supporters will be in attendance and will create an atmosphere.
City’s poor season will be forgotten by supporters at the beginning of the game, because fans will just be relieved to be in attendance and will get behind the team.
However, if City go a goal behind or aren’t playing well, will the excitement of being at the game last for the supporters?
City fans are the most passionate in the league. No other ground can create the same atmosphere as Turner’s Cross and, although they have shown their loyalty and followed the club through the good and the bad times, they expect better than being third from bottom in the First Division.
I played with the club in good and bad times, and even when we were second in the Premier Division, in 2018, the fans would let us know when they weren’t happy.
Some players, including myself, were affected by the groans from the crowd and, admittedly, we weren’t tough enough.
Football is a ruthless business and, as a player, you must be able to deal with the good and bad times, and, in my experience, there are more bad than good.
The 2018 team used to talk in training about fearing going out and playing in Turner’s Cross when we were struggling. We knew exactly which players would be the first to receive abuse and it does affect them.
Playing in a packed Turner’s Cross is special, but there were times that season when some of us were glad to have an away fixture because we knew we wouldn’t hear as much abuse from the crowd.
This is a young City squad and some of these players are going to be playing in front of the City fans for the first time in their career.
As much as they will look to the fans in the ground, will they be able to deal with things should the fans express their displeasure?
On the other hand, playing into the Shed end and having supporters behind the goal was always a special feeling.
I never liked playing into the St Anne’s end, because there would be few supporters sitting there, but playing into the Shed, I always felt like we could score, because of the atmosphere the supporters would create behind the goal.
There was no better feeling than walking down the tunnel after winning a game, hearing the supporters cheering the team from the Shed, and the City players have the opportunity for that to happen against Cabinteely.
Now that the mid-season break is over, the homeward stretch has begun and City need to start producing results, to show the fans what they have been missing.
More in this section