Cork City face an extremely tough test away to high-flying Shels

A gap of 18 points separates the great rivals in the League of Ireland First Division
Cork City face an extremely tough test away to high-flying Shels

Cork City manager Colin Healy. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

IT could be a case of boys against men tonight in Tolka Park as a struggling Cork City side take on First Division leaders Shelbourne in what is expected to be a tough encounter for Colin Healy’s side.

Shelbourne sit top of the table on 30 points after nine wins and three draws, while City are 18 points behind and sitting third from bottom — a position nobody would have expected at the beginning of the season.

But that’s where they are at the moment, and they are the only ones who can change it.

Colin Healy’s men know the importance of better performances as the need for points is becomes more vital with each passing week. City head into tonight’s game on the back of a 2-0 win over Athlone last weekend.

It was great to see City put in a better performance than their previous game against Cabinteely.

I thought they were more solid all over the pitch and their work-rate and grit were much more evident. Both goals came late in each half scored by Alec Byrne and Player of the Match Jack Baxter.

Surely this win will give them that bit of confidence they badly need. Hopefully, they can bring that into tonight’s game, because it has been in short supply this season, and playing against a side like Shels, if you don’t have that, they’ll punish you.

BOOST

Hopefully, after last weekend’s win and performance against Athlone, City can build on that and no better way to challenge themselves than up against the First Division leaders.

Shels are no doubt a powerful and experienced side, but I have faith that Healy will have his lads well prepared. They secured their ninth win of the season last weekend against Wexford, and although it was only a 1-0 victory, I’m sure Ian Morris was delighted with the three points and his side will again be full of confidence themselves facing City tonight.

The last time they met back in April, City suffered a 3-1 defeat on their home patch. City did take the lead in that game through Dylan McGlade from the penalty spot, but the hosts had very little to celebrate after that as Shels went on to dominate the game.

To be fair to City, Jack Walsh received his marching orders on the 32nd minute in that game, which saw City down to 10 men over an hour. Would it have made a difference to the result?

Maybe not, but it will be a lifeline City will hold on to heading into tonight’s game. The fact that Shels beat Wexford by such a narrow 1-0 scoreline last week may have come as a surprise to people, but I would imagine Morris will be looking for a better performance from his side tonight, so City need to be prepared.

Alec Byrne of Cork City shoots to score despite the attention of Scott Delaney and Jamie Hollywood of Athlone Town. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Alec Byrne of Cork City shoots to score despite the attention of Scott Delaney and Jamie Hollywood of Athlone Town. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

City head into tonight’s game with their new assistant manager Richie Holland alongside Healy.

The Bandon native has been part of the City set-up for a while now, and Healy spoke during the week about how thrilled he was to have Holland on board.

“Richie is a great guy and a great coach,” said Healy.

I’ve worked with him for the past two years and I know what he’s about. We think the same way and we get along great, so I know we will work well together.

“It’s also important that Richie knows a lot of the players quite well through his involvement with the academy, so I am delighted to have him on board.”

On the injury front, City will have to do without the likes of Cian Bargarry, George Heaven, and Rob Slevin while Rónán Hurley is a doubt. Healy has options from the U19 squad however, which we have seen him slowly introduce over time.

They are in search of their second away win of the season and although it will be tough — and to be honest I’d settle for a point — Healy is confident that his lads can put it up to Shels, as he feels there has been very little between the sides and always felt that it wasonly silly individual errors cost them.

Let’s hope he’s right and City can build from last week’s win as we know a run of a few consecutive victories could bring City right up the table again.

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