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2019 Season Preview: Cork City

Thu, Feb 14 2019

Daire O'Connor is one of the new recruits at Turner's Cross. Credit: Steve Alfred (ETPhotos)

Manager: John Caulfield

Stadium: Turners Cross

2019 Players in: Liam Nash (Gillingham), Kevin O’Connor (Preston North End – loan), Tadgh Ryan (Galway Utd), Dan Casey (Bohemians), Gary Comerford (Waterford), Daire O’Connor (UCD), Darragh Rainsford (Pike Rovers), James Tilley (Brighton and Hove Albion – loan), Gary Boylan (Sligo Rovers)

2019 Players out: Ronan Coughlan (Sligo Rovers), John Kavanagh (Finn Harps – loan), John Dunleavy (Sligo Rovers), Jimmy Keohane (Rochdale), Kieran Sadlier (Doncaster Rovers), Damien Delaney (Waterford Utd), Peter Cherrie (Derry City), Steven Beattie (Chattanooga Red Wolves), Barry McNamee (Derry City), Danny Kane (Flyde)

Extratime.ie Key Man: Graham Cummins

Quite a substantial amount of experience remains at City: Mark McNulty, Gearoid Morrissey, Alan Bennett and Karl Sheppard all have an extensive number of games under their belt at this level. This side, and indeed any side, needs a proven goal scorer. Cummins provides them a know how from his time in England and Scotland, and remains their key outlet this season.

A decent touch, power in the air and the ability to bring others into play, marks him out as being vital to the side. He will admit that he struggled during spells last year to adapt to the pace of the league at times. On occasions, he also found himself isolated as Caulfield set up to compress midfield and counter teams, and it is vital that he gets the support that he needs if City are to pose any sort of challenge this year.

Extratime.ie One to Watch: Liam Nash

The returning Kevin O’ Connor will provide that strength in midfield that the side is looking for as a platform is needed to allow for the more creative players to make those runs forward necessary. Daire O’Connor from UCD and James Tilley from Brighton will provide a spark in the team, but the one many are looking forward to seeing properly is Liam Nash.

The striker was signed last week, after two years in England with Gillingham. He was highly regarded during this spell with the Kent based outfit and should provide much needed options up front. He has a decent turn of pace, a strong work ethic and the innate ability to convert chances when they arise. The Shed End is already looking forward to seeing him get a run in the side.

How they did last season:

League: 2nd

Something of a disappointment given the heights reached in the previous campaign. A first league title had arrived in 13 years, and hopes were high of a continuation on with that success.

Dundalk were expected to provide the major challenge yet again, with possible outsiders entering the race. And so, it seemed with three-quarters of the season gone. The big two were going blow for blow and neither side were able to truly build up a substantial lead, as the other would inevitably respond in kind.

The period during which City took part in Europe seemed to have been the blow from which they never recovered. They had lost away to Dundalk and drawn at home to Shamrock Rovers but recovered enough to record three straight wins to put themselves back into contention.

A run of five games without a win, including just one point from three home games, signalled the end of their reign as champions. Some of this was attributed to fatigue due to their schedule. More focused on tactics employed by Caulfield which failed to bring out the best of their more attack minded players in Kieran Sadlier and Barry McNamee.

They did enough, in the end, to finish second. For many fans, the nagging regrets remained as to what may have been.

FAI Cup: Final

The cup proved the catalyst in many fan’s eyes that the club could stand up and be counted against the Lilywhites. Champions for the past two seasons, they eased their way into the semi-finals with convincing victories over Home Farm, Maynooth and Longford. The last four saw them paired with Bohs, not long after suffering that disastrous defeat.

They managed to withstand the pressure from the home-side, to home away with a draw after a late Kieran Sadlier penalty. The replay saw City at their best as they blew their opponents away in the first-half. Karl Sheppard being the key man. A long-range effort in the second-half proved to be a mere conciliation.

Yet again, it was their old nemesis at the Aviva in November. Both sides had met in the showcase for the last four seasons. Neither side had managed to score more than two goals between them in said games. Dundalk were seeking another double, whilst City looking to regain lost pride, but it was Dundalk who prevailed thanks to Patrick McEleney’s second-half header.

EA Sports Cup: Second Round

The club seemed to be unduly concerned at the time after an early defeat to Waterford at the RSC. A make-shift team still managed to get the home-side to extra-time and penalties. They ultimately lost 5-3 on spot kicks, after neither side could be divided.

Europe: Second Qualifying Round

This was the major disappointment of City’s season. The prospect of competing in Europe’s premier competition was enough to whet the appetite of the Turners Cross faithful. A tough prospect awaited them in the guise of Polish champions, Legia Warsaw.

Cork managed to hold them to an even keel for most of the home leg. Indeed, they created chances of their own on the break, which they were unable to put away. This cost them dearly when Michael Kucharczyk struck a 30-yard effort past Peter Cherrie. The return game required City to get the opening goal to stand much hope, but unfortunately it did not go their way. Defensive mistakes allowed the home-team score after the half-hour. City held their own going well into the second-half until they tired approaching the end. Two late goals put a harsh slant on the score-line.

Being able to drop into the Europa League, did afford them at least two more European games. Rosenberg, the perennial champions league participants, were the opposition. City started well again but yet again conceded the opening goal early on. They tried to get back into the game but left in another goal just before half-time.

They tried to break down the Norwegians, but they were fairly comfortable in possession. Slack defending on two occasions gifted them a further lead in the away-leg. Despite a number of chances to score, including a few off the woodwork, City finished their European campaign without scoring a goal.

What to expect this season:

This could be somewhat of a transitionary year for the club. For the first time in three seasons, they finished without a major trophy. Caulfield has admitted that the days of signing bigger name players are behind them as the club has to cut the wage budget. The structure means they will always have to stay within a tighter budget.

A core element of talent and experience still exists within the side however. If he can manage to blend this with emerging talent from the impressive underage teams, and new players coming into the side, they may yet have a say on where the silverware ends up this season.

Title Odds: 5/1

First game: St. Patricks Athletic (Away), February 15th (kick-off 7.45pm).