The curtain came down on a difficult season for Cobh Ramblers at the weekend, and Thomas Stafford is here to review the year at St. Colman’s Park.
There’s no point in lying about it, this was not a great season for Cobh. It was always going to be difficult though given the circumstances. This season was still about building the club and getting back to where where it belonged. It will be a long road but all at the club are working tirelessly behind the scenes to get there.
Promotion was never a realistic aim with such a young squad and small budget. The Cork side finished the First Division in last place on fourteen points, eleven adrift of Waterford United in seventh position. A goal-difference of -42 makes for poor reading if you’re a Ramblers fan.
Former manager Dave Hill left the club just three weeks before the season began having been offered a job with the FAI. U19 manager Martin Cambridge was left with the task of picking up the pieces. Quite a few senior players had moved on, most notably John Meade, Brian Fitzgerald, Mikey O’Shea and Davin O’Neill. The squad was young but eager and people were looking forward to the season ahead.
The campaign started with a draw at home to Shamrock Rovers B. It wasn’t the worst start with James Carson grabbing the equaliser late on. Sadly this form did not continue. Three losses on the trot to Wexford Youths (3-2), Finn Harps (5-0) and Galway (4-0) followed before a home draw with Waterford (0-0) ended the losing streak.
More defeats to Shelbourne (2-0) and Shamrock Rovers B (3-1) ended the first round of fixtures. As the club entered May, Wexford Youths knocked the Rams out of the EA Sports Cup (1-0) while there were more losses at the hands of Finn Harps (2-0), Longford (2-0), Galway (5-1) and Waterford (4-0).
Ramblers had a somewhat impressive June. Draws at home to high-flying Longford (0-0) and Shelbourne (2-2) drew plaudits while they bravely went down 2-0 to Derry City in the FAI Cup. This compounded with the club getting their first win of the season at the end of the month. Goals from Garry Comerford, Craig Burns and Martin Deady secured a morale-boosting victory over the Hoops.
July saw the opening of the transfer window and Martin Cambridge set about setting has stamp on the team. Stephen Kenny and Kynan Rocks arrived from Waterford United. Ex-Cork City players David Browne, Andy O’Connell and Eoghan Murphy all came in to bolster the squad while Andrew Neville and Garry Comerford were also shrewd signings. There was a renewed sense of optimism at the club and maybe, just maybe, the tide was turning.
A loss to Wexford (2-1) was followed by their first away point of the season against Finn Harps (0-0). Despite a nasty injury to goalkeeper Shane Hallahan, Cobh held on for a well-earned draw. Comprehensive defeats to Longford (3-0) and Galway (4-1) started to dent the recent optimism. A 2-2 draw with rivals Waterford provided some relief but proved to be just that. A defeat away to Shelbourne (2-0) was followed by their worst result of the year. Shamrock Rovers B hammered Ramblers 6-0 in Tallaght and even the most positive of fans were disheartened to say the least.
This season was not getting any easier. They earned a 2-2 draw at home to Wexford to regain some confidence the following week and then picked up their second victory of the campaign with a 1-0 win over Finn Harps at St Colman’s Park. Alas three more defeats followed as Longford (4-2), Galway (2-1) and Waterford (2-1) all recorded wins over the Rams. The final game of the season was one of the most entertaining of the campaign as Cobh drew 3-3 with play-off bound Shelbourne at St Colman’s Park. In an enthralling game, goals from Rob Waters and Stephen Kenny (2) ensured that the club would end the year on a positive note.
There’s no denying that this season did not go to plan. Some players can be proud of their performances during the year but overall it was a difficult campaign. The players at Martin Cambridge’s disposal gave it everything but they were taken apart by the bigger clubs.
Their home form was respectable and the side produced some impressive displays in the second half of the season. The foundations are there for a positive future.
Cobh will have to rebuild in the off-season which I’m sure they will. The future is bright for Cobh football. The U19s won the prestigious Enda McGuill Cup in March over Drogheda in what was an electric night at St Colman’s Park. If this can be transferred to the senior set-up then it will be good times ahead for the Cork club.
Some of the u19 players have already been integrated into the side with Rob Lynch, Ryan Goldsmith and George Gill all showing potential. It is now about pushing on from this. Ramblers are no longer the “new kids on the block” in the League of Ireland, having had two seasons under their belt. The task at hand is getting this historical club back to where it belongs and although it takes time, it is possible.
Preparations are already underway for next year and hopefully it will bring fortune. Roll on 2015!
Thomas Stafford, Pundit Arena.