IT’S fair to say it’s been a season of ups and downs for Cork City in their first season in the lower tier of Irish football since 2011.
A limited budget meant that recruitment was difficult for manager Colin Healy and he was forced to go with youth rather than bring in more experienced players that were needed for the team.
Did I expect City to earn promotion this season? Probably not.
Does that mean I would see this season as a success for City? Again, probably not.
Because, although they had little budget, it didn’t stop Treaty United from making the play-offs and in a division of 10 teams, I did expect City to finish in the top five.
Looking at how the league table ended; City finished four points adrift of fifth place Bray Wanderers, and their 2-2 draw with the Seagulls in July — a game City led 2-0 with six minutes remaining — has to be the game that will cause the biggest regret.
Had City managed to see out that game, they would have been competing in the play-offs instead of Bray because of their superior goal difference.
That game summed up City’s season. There were a lot of positives, but inevitably their inability to remain calm in pressure situations and not concede silly goals cost them.
There is always pressure playing for City no matter what division you are in because of the size of the club. I felt sometimes throughout the season — particularly at the beginning of the campaign — that some players crumbled under that pressure which led to them making unforced errors.
Because it was a young squad, I did expect the players to make errors and it was only normal for them to feel pressure at times.
Next season there will be a lot more pressure and they have to show from the very beginning that they are able to cope with it; otherwise, they could be searching for a new club come the summer because City cannot afford to have a similar start.
Healy knows that the excuse of having a young squad will no longer be accepted and fans will demand a lot more from their team than what they witnessed this season.
I expect Healy to be more ruthless with his squad next season. The former Celtic player demands high standards every day, and although he is a manager that is concerned with promoting and developing younger players, promotion has to be his sole focus and he will know that more experienced players are needed to achieve this.
Reflecting on the season; my player of the year would be Cian Coleman. The former St Patrick’s Athletic player excelled in his new role at centre-back. Although Coleman can be comfortable on the ball, I wouldn’t say it is his strongest trait, but his reading of a game is what makes him an excellent defender.
I always think it’s a compliment to a defender to say ‘I never really noticed him’ when judging his performance. This, for me, tells you that the player was never troubled by an attacker during a match. He was never bullied or made an error in the game. I believe Coleman had a lot of ‘I never really noticed him’ performances. Yes, you can argue that there were a lack of top strikers in the first division but against St Pat’s in the FAI Cup, Coleman pocketed Ronan Coughlan, and when Coleman was suspended against Shelbourne his absence was noticeable.
Coleman’s impressive performance in defence has put an end to his career as a midfielder.
The 24-year-old was a box-to-box midfielder, but City already have a player like this in Alec Byrne and there is no need to take Coleman out of defence.
However, I do feel City need another midfielder; a player who will dictate and control games. Someone whose job it is to get the ball from the defence and be the link player in the team. A player that City will rely on to get the team playing.
Now, that player will be difficult to find and I don’t think there is a player in Ireland that City could convince, with their budget, to join them, but with his connections in the UK, Healy could find this sort of player, who is on the fringes of the first-team, across the water.