Stoke game will be good run out for Cork City players

Stoke game will be good run out for Cork City players

Cork City's Cian Bargary races past Cobh Ramblers' Luke Desmond, during their SSE Airtricity League First Division clash at Turner's Cross.

SATURDAY: Friendly: Cork City v Stoke City: Turner's Cross, 5pm 

THE result of this encounter might be meaningless but the game itself will be a useful outing for City. 

This is the league leaders idle week, and a friendly against an English Championship is the best possible option for Colin Healy to prepare his players for next week’s crucial clash against Galway United. 

Other league of Ireland clubs either find themselves in league action or competing in European competitions so a friendly against them is not feasible.

The other choice Healy would have had, would have been a training ground 11v11 amongst the first team squad as well as a handful of U19 players. 

However, although these games can be competitive, their intensity tends to drop after around 20 minutes in those matches. 

The players will be looking forward to testing themselves against Championship opposition and seeing the level the Stoke players are at.

The Potters are three weeks away from beginning their league campaign. 

They might not be fully fit or be extremely motivated to win the game, but they will still be of better standard than what City have faced this season. 

Louis Britton who recently signed for Cork City FC
Louis Britton who recently signed for Cork City FC

Often, when English clubs face League of Ireland teams, the timing of the games is not ideal for the Irish club because it can be thrown in amongst a hectic fixture schedule, which leads to the Irish side playing a weakened team. 

However, as already discussed; this is a free weekend for City and every player would benefit from getting minutes against former Shamrock Rovers manager Michael O’Neill’s side.

I would imagine that Healy will want to give regular starters a lot of minutes against Stoke and likewise the players will be itching to play. Sometimes, players are against the idea of playing a friendly midway through the season because they would rather rest up. 

However, City have only recently returned from the league break, as well as having their fixture against Waterford called off, so players will want to be involved in this encounter. 

It is an excellent opportunity for Healy to give players that have recently returned from injury more game time.

We saw Ally Gilchrist, Matt Healy and Dylan McGlade come on in City's against Bray Wanderers and all three will have a case for starting against Galway. 

Featuring against Stoke will enhance that case. Gordon Walker returned to match action in an U19 game and participating in this fixture will be another step-up in his attempt to regain full fitness. 

Walker is in a different situation to Gilchrist, Healy and McGlade.

He has missed the entire campaign due to a leg break he suffered during pre-season. 

Even if he were to complete a full 90 minutes against Stoke - I doubt Healy is planning to give him the full game against the Championship side – he won’t be in contention for starting against Galway because he will be eased back into competitive action. 

At best he would be looking at getting back into the squad.

I do believe that there will be another motive for some City players apart from maintaining fitness. 

Some of those players – mainly the younger players – will think that if they can impress against Stoke, then they might attract the interest of O’Neill and the Stoke manager could enquire about the availability of the player. 

Someone like Matt Healy might catch the attention of O’Neill. Healy is a talented player. He is only 20. 

If he impresses I’m sure Stoke will monitor him over the coming months. David Harrington and Josh Honohan might also come to the attention of O’Neill because of their age and their recent involvements in Irish squads.

Despite having a fixture the following day, I do expect to see a lot of City’s U19s feature towards the latter stage of the game. 

Getting game time against a top professional side will develop those younger players more and will be more beneficial for their growth than an U19 league game, although they should be able to play 20 minutes and be fresh for their fixture against UCD the following day. 

This game is a great opportunity to get some first team experience into the academy players.

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