Cork City v Longford: Another huge game in First Division title race

Colin Healy's side return to action after a break on the back of a massive win away to rivals Galway
Cork City v Longford: Another huge game in First Division title race

Cork City's Kevin O'Connor celebrates a goal with Matt Healy against Wexford. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

SATURDAY: SSE Airtricity First Division: Longford Town v Cork City, Bishopsgate, 7.30pm

IT’S three weeks since Cork City defeated Galway United in their last fixture and Colin Healy’s men cannot afford to replicate the performances they have shown after breaks this season if they want to get maximum points from Bishopsgate.

In City’s two fixtures when returning from a break; they have drawn both matches. Of course, because of the mid-season break, every team in the division were given the luxury of a free weekend but Longford were back in competitive action last weekend whereas City had to settle for a friendly against Sligo Rovers.

I do believe that this gives Longford a slight advantage. City would have preferred to have been facing a side that were without a competitive fixture like themselves last week.

It is difficult for players to get back into the tempo of competitive football after such a long absence.

Cork City manager Colin Healy. Picture: Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile
Cork City manager Colin Healy. Picture: Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

Yes, the City players I’m sure will have been working hard in training over the past fortnight, and their friendly against Sligo would have benefited the players, but competitive football is a completely different mindset.

The players' mentality is different. Every challenge, run, pass is meaningful in a competitive game whereas that is not the case with training or a friendly match. Being mentally right when that whistle blows is tough.

I’m sure these City players will be focused and have the right attitude, considering what is at stake for them this year, but it might take time before they reach top levels in the game against Longford.

It will take them time to get back up to match tempo after a lengthy break.

Longford’s previous game against Bray was evidence of the consequences of players having not played a competitive game in two weeks.

We all know the biggest talking point from this game was the crowd trouble off the pitch but on the pitch, the contest was subdued. There was a lack of tempo and intensity from the players. However, Longford have had their opportunity to shake off the cobwebs.

I would expect them to be better against City. Gary Cronin’s team are a good side.

They are arguably the best team City have faced this season. They are a physical side. Their passing and movement is of a high level. 

Although, in their previous meeting against City, they lost the game 4-1, the scoreline was not a true reflection of the game. Longford will feel aggrieved that they didn’t get something from Turner’s Cross that night.

They will be confident of getting a positive result against Healy’s side. There aren’t many forwards that have caused the City defence problems this year but Sam Verdon was a player that the City defence found awkward to deal with.

PRESENCE

He made his presence felt and it should be another interesting battle between him and Ally Gilchrist.

For City; they will be without top scorer Ruairi Keating which could give another opportunity for Mark O’Mahony but I see City opting for a change of formation to accommodate the loss of their top scorer.

City have vastly lined-out with a 3-5-2 formation but I expect City to go employ an extra midfielder in the absence of Keating, where they will play four players narrowly in a ‘box’ midfield alongside their usual wide men.

‘The box’ I imagine would see Aaron Bolger and Cian Coleman sitting in front of the back-four with Matt Healy and Darragh Crowley or Barry Coffey supporting Cian Murphy.

City do have options available to them with the return of Dylan McGlade but the former Shelbourne player might have to settle for making his impact off the bench for the time being until he fully regains his fitness.

McGlade has been back in training several weeks but there is a difference between being fit and being match fit.

City have to make sure they start at a high tempo. If they do that they will win the game because they are a fitter team than Longford. The midlands team won’t be able to sustain the same levels as City for 90 minutes if Healy’s men play at a high tempo from the start to end.

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