EVEN the most optimistic Cork City fan must be resigned to the club competing in the First Division again next season, but that doesn’t mean that they will just let the season fade out.
City still have slim hopes of reaching the play-offs, but a lot would need to go in their favour for that to happen. They are 10 points adrift of tonight’s opponents, who occupy the last play-off position in the table, and have only four matches remaining.
On paper, this trip to Bray looks like would seem to be a dead rubber. However, for players, there is no such thing as a meaningless game. There is always something to play for as a player, whether that be a player wanting to improve his goalscoring or assist stats, or a player who wants to impress his current employers or potential suitors.
However, I was much older than these City players and I would imagine they will be itching to play against Bray.
If the players are going to travel to Bray, they don’t want to spend hours on a bus only to be told by the manager that he wants to give fringe players a chance.
Players are selfish; those who have featured regularly, won’t want to be told that it’s time for others to be given a chance between now and the end of the season so that the manager can assess them to see if they have a future at the club.
I’m would be an advocate of giving some of the fringe players an opportunity against Bray to see if they should be offered a contract by the club. David Harrington will feel that he needs to be given a chance to show that he can be seriously considered to be able to fight for the number one shirt next season.
However, City still have a slight chance of reaching the play-offs and what would it say about manager Colin Healy if he made wholesale changes to the side against Bray?
Yes, it would indicate that he is giving others an opportunity to help them develop. It could suggest that he wants to see if some players are capable of being part of the promotion push next season. It could also be seen by pessimists that the manager is waving the white flag.
Those people would have a point; should a team ever give up hope of achieving something — no matter how little chance they have of succeeding — unless it is mathematically impossible?
He isn't going to change the winning mentality that he had as a player throughout his playing career now that he is a manager. I suspect he will name his strongest possible team. that is available to him. Yes, he might rest a few if he feels they are carrying knocks, but otherwise, I think we will see a similar starting 11 to the one we have seen in recent matches.
City go into the game looking to extend their unbeaten away record which stretches back to the end of June. In their meeting earlier in the season between these sides at the Carlisle Grounds, City set up to frustrate Bray and it was an uneventful game.
The Rebel Army cannot afford to have the same mindset for this fixture and I would expect them to be very attack-minded against Bray. I would imagine we will see City go with the same tactics that they did against Bray in their 2-2 draw at Turner’s Cross.
That evening City should have been out of sight at half-time, in the game but poor finishing let them down. Bray struggled to deal with the pace and movement of Cian Murphy and Beineon O’Brien-Whitmarsh and I would imagine Healy is considering recalling the latter to the starting 11 because of his performance against the Bray defenders in their last meeting.