Graham Cummins: Cork City learned the hard way you have to win ugly

Victory over Galway United on Friday night will see City promoted with three games to go in the First Division campaign
Graham Cummins: Cork City learned the hard way you have to win ugly

Joy for Cork City's Aaron Bolger and Dylan McGlade after the late drama in Waterford. Picture: Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

FRIDAY: SSE Airtricity League First Division: Galway United v Cork City, Eamonn Deacy Park, 7.45pm. 

ONE victory against the team who were seen at the beginning of the year as favourites for the title and Cork City will be champions and, more importantly, back in the Premier Division next season.

Before a ball was kicked this campaign, Galway United were tipped to lift the title, given the budget they had compared to others in the division.

However, Colin Healy’s City have ignored all of those who believed that Galway, the Tribesmen, a team with plenty of experience, would walk the division.

People questioned how City could compete with Galway if they were signing a player the Connacht side seemed happy to let go, in Ruairi Keating. The signing of Keating has been just one of Healy’s masterstrokes this campaign in what has been a two-year project for the manager.

Sealing promotion against Galway will not be down just to the work the manager and the players have done this season, but last year as well.

BELIEF

When Healy took the job permanently last season, it would have been more in hope than in the belief that they could gain promotion that year. He knew he had a young squad that wasn’t ready to get out of the First Division and that adjustments would have to be made.

He had to change the mentality of the players. Those players were used to a losing environment from the previous season.

They had seen how things were done the wrong way and weren’t aware of what it took to be successful. There was a change in the team halfway through last year when those inexperienced players started to learn that it takes a lot more to be successful in football than just talent.

They learned that players have to work hard, that they have to be part of a team and not perform as an individual, and they have to learn how to manage a game, meaning knowing when they have to take the sting out of a match or when they just have to sit back and defend for their lives.

City’s improvement in their game management has been one of the most notable aspects of this team.

Cork City players and fans celebrate the winning goal last weekend. Picture: Patrick Browne
Cork City players and fans celebrate the winning goal last weekend. Picture: Patrick Browne

Last season, they were too willing to throw away leads by not putting their bodies on the line to ensure teams didn’t equalise.

They were naive in trying to score that extra goal rather than get numbers behind the ball to protect their lead in tight games.

Some might argue that that is negative football, but sometimes, in certain games, you have to accept that the best way to get three points is to get an ‘ugly win’.

Also, it’s not as though City have played like that in all of their games, just the few occasions where they realised that it would be more beneficial to protect their lead than let themselves be more open defensively by trying to increase their advantage.

Although they have the chance to win the league and seal promotion against Galway, there is little pressure on the City players tonight.

PRESSURE

There was a lot of pressure before the Waterford match because had results gone differently that night, then Galway could have found themselves in control of their own destiny, in terms of automatic promotion, without relying on City slipping up.

Cian Murphy on the ball for Cork City in Waterford. Picture: Patrick Browne
Cian Murphy on the ball for Cork City in Waterford. Picture: Patrick Browne

As things stand, with a 10-point gap between the clubs, it is a matter of when rather than if City finish the job and win the league.

Would it put the icing on the cake to beat Galway? Doing it at the home of the team who were your closest rival for the title? Probably.

I’m sure the players would love to finish the job against Galway, but won’t be too disheartened if they don’t. You could argue that winning it at home, in a full stadium at Turner’s Cross, would be more special for the players.

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