In current form, Cork City should have no fear of leaders Shels

Dubliners are heading back to the Premier League while Rebel Army are building for 2021
In current form, Cork City should have no fear of leaders Shels

Cork City's Jack Walsh and Athlone Town's Scott Delaney tussle for the ball. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

TONIGHT: SSE Airtricity League: Cork City v Shelbourne, Turner’s Cross, 7.45pm

NO one can deny that in their recent games, Cork City have shown huge improvements and become a better team over the course of the season.

How much has this team developed? We will know more after City’s game against league leaders Shelbourne.

City manager Colin Healy has always believed in this group of young players. He knew better than anyone that it would take time before we saw this group of players start to produce. Unfortunately, it would seem that it took too long for City to get promoted this season.

Nevertheless, this game will be another good indicator of whether these players are ready for a promotion push next season or whether a big turnover will be needed in the squad over the off-season.

Shelbourne are the runaway leaders in the division. The Dubliners were most people’s pre-season favourites for the title, and Shelbourne have lived up to their expectations. They need 11 points from their remaining six league games to be crowned champions and it’s only a matter of time before the Shels players are lifting the First Division trophy.

Their success is down to experience of the players in their squad. Of course, those players haven’t come cheap and considering the budget Shels have in comparison to some of the other teams in the division, it’s no surprise to see them at the top of the league.

Players such as Brendan Clarke, Ally Gilchrist, and Kevin O’Connor are very capable of playing at a higher level, which will make Shels’ adjustment to the Premier Division simpler next season.

However, this Shels team have been looking vulnerable of late and City will fancy their chances of getting the win, especially if they can reach the levels they did in the first-half against Athlone Town last week. Since the sides last met, they have identical records with three wins, five draws, and one defeat each, but I feel City are the team that have developed better since their 2-1 defeat to Shels at Tolka Park and should have had a few more wins, most notably their 2-2 draws with Bray Wanderers and Cabinteely.

Cork City fan Stephen O'Malley, Greenmount, and Cobh Ramblers fan Morgan Doody, Cobh, at Turner's Cross.Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork City fan Stephen O'Malley, Greenmount, and Cobh Ramblers fan Morgan Doody, Cobh, at Turner's Cross.Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Shels’ standards have dropped and they are not reaching the levels they did at the beginning of the season. They defeated Wexford 4-0 in their last outing, but that was a match in which Ian Ryan’s team were reduced to ten men after 11 minutes, and looking back at goals, some of Wexford’s defending is inexcusable.

City have nothing to fear against the league leaders; if anything, when the Shels players see the video clips of the Rebel army against Athlone, they will be worried about coming down to the Cross. 

City played with such intensity and pace on the night that it would frighten any team. Shels are not the most mobile at the back and they won’t relish facing the pace of City’s attack.

There is no love lost when it comes to City versus Shels, and I would imagine the City faithful will be out in their numbers for this fixture. We should see the biggest crowd of the season at Turner’s Cross tonight. The Shels coaching staff would have watched City’s match against Athlone and will be aware of the impact the fans had on the players with the atmosphere they created. They will be telling their players that they have to try and silence the City crowd. Obviously, the best way to do that is to score an early goal but that is not always a given.

There are other things that the Shels players could do to quieten the crowd. They will want to take the ‘sting’ out of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see, in the early stages of the game, the Shels players walk rather than jog to take set-pieces or throw-ins. I don’t see Clarke rushing his kick-outs and players could playact when they have been fouled. All these ‘tricks’ slow down a game, which tends to quieten the crowd.

After last week’s performance and result, I wouldn’t envision many changes to the City starting 11. Confidence in these players is growing and they will be keen to show they are capable of beating the very best. Some players might believe that the play-offs are still a possibility and they will want to win all of their remaining fixtures to keep those faint hopes alive.

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