Cork City have too much up front for struggling Athlone Town

Colin Healy's side are top of the table and will make no mistake against struggling Athlone
Cork City have too much up front for struggling Athlone Town

Cork City's Matt Healy celebrates his goal against Treaty United at Turner's Cross. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

FRIDAY: SSE Airtricity League First Division: Athlone Town v Cork City, 7.45pm.

THERE is just no sugarcoating this. Anything other than a victory for City would be a disappointing result.

The side currently occupying the bottom of the table are there for a reason — they are the worst team in the division.

Defensively, they are one of the weakest sides I have seen for a long time. They struggle against any sort of pace because of their lack of mobility in their backline. In the reverse fixture, City ran out 4-1 winners, a scoreline that flattered tonight’s hosts.

Colin Healy’s men could have easily doubled that goal tally, such was Athlone’s inability to defend.

Cian Murphy was a player that particularly exploited Athlone’s defensive frailties, and although the Tipperary native was absent from City’s starting line-up against Treaty, I do expect him to be restored for this fixture.

We often hear the word ‘rested’ as an excuse when players are dropped from the starting 11. It’s the polite word that can be used for dropping a player. 

Although Cian Murphy has been out of form of late, I do believe that he was indeed rested against Treaty and not dropped.

The player works so hard so for the team, and a lot of that work is high-intensity, which will lead to more fatigue than a player who doesn’t do as many high-intensity runs.

The striker has been pivotal to City’s success this season. More often than not he sets the tempo for the team from his desire to quickly close down opposition players and his willingness to run in behind defences, but an element of tiredness has led to him not being as effective at those attributes in recent games.

Hopefully, the rest will have aided him, and he will be back to his very best against Athlone.

Tonight’s pitch is big, so there should be a lot of room for Murphy to use his pace, and the conditions should suit his game.

Should Murphy be restored to the starting line-up, I don’t think that will have anything to do with Mark O’Mahony’s performance against Treaty.

I thought O’Mahony did very well with the limited service he was given on Monday and was unlucky not to score against Treaty on a few occasions. It is clear that he has a big future in the game and will be an important player for City this season.

Another player that was rested against Treaty that I would expect to see restored to the starting 11 is Cian Bargary.

Cork City's Cian Bargary celebrates his goal against Treaty United. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork City's Cian Bargary celebrates his goal against Treaty United. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Like his Tipperary colleague, Baragary is a player who that word “rested” does truly apply to. Baragary, of course, made a difference in the game against Treaty by coming on and scoring, but it was the right decision not to play the winger from the outset in the game.

Baragary has also shown signs of fatigue in recent games, but besides his ability in terms of what he creates from open play, by providing opportunities and scoring goals, his long throw will also be an important asset for this game, and that was evident in the teams’ previous meeting. City used Bargary’s long throw at every opportunity, and Barry Coffey was the beneficiary that evening when he scored from a Bargary throw-in.

EFFECTIVE

It might not be the prettiest tactic, but if it’s effective and Athlone are vulnerable from it, then it is something that City should not be shy of using.

Athlone’s strength is their attack and the pace they possess in their forward players.

They might not be the best technically, but as a defender you will always worry about a player with pace.

Although City will want to press high — and having a high defensive line is the best way to employ this tactic — I don’t think Healy will underestimate Athlone’s threat in attack, and I would be surprised if he instructed his defenders to play a high line when out of possession.

City are currently three points above Galway United in second place, albeit John Caulfield’s side have a game in hand.

That game will come next week as City are without a fixture, and it is important that City at least maintain that three-point lead after tonight.

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