Cathal Heffernan's debut hints at a brighter future for Cork City

Barbara O'Connell analyses the Rebel Army's last game of the season and hopes for 2022
Cathal Heffernan's debut hints at a brighter future for Cork City

Cork City supporters before the last league game of the season at Turner's Cross. Picture: Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

CORK City ended the season on a high at Turner’s Cross on Friday night.

Their 3-0 victory, at home to Galway United, gave the fans plenty to cheer about, even if the promotion dream was long over.

While it was a game that meant nothing for either team in terms of the league, getting a positive result was vital for Colin Healy and his squad.

That showed in their performance. It was probably the best I’ve seen them play all season.

Though Galway manager John Caulfield fielded a depleted team — his priority being the play-offs, which begin on Wednesday — that shouldn’t take away from City’s display.

NUMBER ONE

Dave Harrington, in goal, had very little to do, but he will be happy with his clean sheet and I imagine he has cemented a place in the team for next season.

Cork City legend Philip Long, who covered the game for streaming, praised Harrington but also said that long-serving Mark McNulty should be number one again next season. That didn’t add up for me and I’m sure the majority of City fans would be the same.

Should McNulty return as first choice because he’s been there longer? Or because he’s a better goalkeeper? That’s the big decision that Healy faces.

I don’t agree that City should be playing in the Premier Division because they have huge support. They have to earn that right.

And while I have great time for McNulty, I think Harrington will definitely give him a run for his money and that competitiveness is what the club needs. It could be a challenge that McNulty will relish, though he recently turned 41.

The back four of Gordon Walker, Cian Coleman, Jonas Hakkinen, and Steven Beattie were solid last Friday, with Hakkinen and Coleman getting a goal apiece, while Walker was chosen as Cork City’s man of the match, and deservedly so.

Going forward, Dylan McGlade was a huge threat again. When you add his ability to Cian Murphy, Cian Bargarry, Barry Coffey, and Aaron Bolger, it’s really surprising not to have seen City do better this season.

Finishing sixth is disappointing, especially for manager Colin Healy. He knows they should have done better and he knows their dreadful start cost them dearly.

While we said the club was in transition, time is running out and next season will be a massive year. The focus has to be promotion. A lot of work needs to be done off-season to strengthen the squad.

Players improved towards the end of the campaign, and while I hope Aaron Bolger, Barry Coffey, Dylan McGlade, and Steven Beattie will remain at the club next year, the panel still needs strengthening, especially up front

Healy and his backroom staff now know how competitive the First Division is and the quicker City get out of it, the better.

Alec Byrne of Cork City in action against Liam Corcoran of Galway United at Turner's Cross on Friday night. Picture: Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile
Alec Byrne of Cork City in action against Liam Corcoran of Galway United at Turner's Cross on Friday night. Picture: Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

While I was disappointed not to see back-up goalkeeper Paul Hunt come off the bench and feature for the first time this season, I was delighted that Cathal Heffernan make his senior debut. Alex Murphy, for Galway, had a stormer at centre-back, at just 17 years of age, but Heffernan is only 16.

I’ve no doubt it was a proud moment for all his family.

Huge credit must go to the fantastic City fans, who have been brilliant all year. In a season that disappointed, they continued to show their support and the club owe it to them to invest heavily to return to the top tier as soon as possible.

As everyone accepts, it was a disappointing campaign overall, but it was great to watch live games again.

Meanwhile, Cobh Ramblers had another great win, 2-1 away to Athlone, their third consecutive win, to end their season on a high.

Darren Murphy can enjoy a well-deserved break before preparations begin again for next season.

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