Cork City travel to the Belfield next Friday night in search of another three points against UCD to keep their title hopes alive.
Meanwhile Dundalk who are level on points with City, but have a far superior goal difference and an extra game on their side travel to Athlone Town before they face a quick turnaround in which they must host Shamrock Rovers this coming Monday.
The mood in the Cork City camp is a distinct one of circumspect, illustrated by city striker, turned right midfielder John O’Flynn who knows that his team-mates must be wary of the threat the Students pose.
“They’re always a sticky team, there’s never any pressure on them, they go out and play football. You can see that when we played them at home they went one goal up, they went down to ten men and they kept playing football the whole way through, even with ten men, so they are a tough team to play and a team that probably has no pressure on them and they can go out and enjoy their football.”
John Caulfield reflected the points made by O’Flynn. The City boss showed a huge amount of respect to the Rebel Army’s next opponents by saying this is their biggest game despite matches against Bohemians and Dunalk to come.
“This is probably our most difficult game out of the last ten, people might laugh at that, but every other match as we keep saying – we take it week by week and it’s the old cliché but you have no choice – but if you look at us we have taken 20 out 0f 24 points since the break.
“We’ve turned around with six wins and two draws. Our two draws were against Athlone and Bray – two of the bottom three teams and they were games that everyone expected us to take full points.
“This is the most difficult game because if it gets to the last game against Dundalk we’ve no need to rise the boys for that game – there’ll be no need to rise the boys for our last home game Friday week.
“This is the biggest game because everyone assumes it’s just going to be three points, everyone assumes that UCD are down at the moment and struggling. They’ve been struggling for a while but they’re still second last, they’re not last, they can still survive.”
City still have everything to play for as they are level on points with Dundalk but a Lilywhite slip up will be needed if City are to have any chance of winning the title in Oriel Park on the final day of the season.
UCD are fighting to stay in this division and that will add an extra level of difficulty to the performance of John Caulfield’s side. Cork City have already reached a significant milestone in gaining European football next season but with the title still just about attainable a lot is to be decided this weekend with Dundalk having to play a game on Friday and Monday as well as City travelling to one of their traditionally unhappy hunting grounds.
The Leesiders are unlikely to have Gearoid Morrissey fit for the game and Darren Dennehy has a foot injury but the Rebel Army do have Colin Healy returning from his suspension, which completely changed the dynamic of City’s play last week against Drogheda United, despite Dave O’Leary and John Duneavy acquitting themselves brilliantly in the middle of the park.
Healy’s presence in the side has been a major factor in the success of Caulfield’s tactics this season and he will be a major cog in the City machine as they steam their way to Dublin this Friday.
Caulfield was as pragmatic as usual when discussing the importance of the game in front of them and the consequences if they aren’t solely focused on the task in hand.
“We need to treat them [UCD] with respect. If we do that then we’re fine, if we start dreaming and wandering on or start listening to supporters telling you about ‘oh the match in three weeks time’ you’re gone – that’s what you can’t afford to do and I suppose, look it, that’s the beauty about sport at every level, where people take the eye off the ball the underdog beats the favourite”
John Caulfield and his side will be doing everything in their power to make sure the underdog doesn’t beat the favourite this Friday in what is a defining weekend in the League of Ireland title race.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena.
Remaining Cork City fixtures
UCD away (10th of October), Bohemians at home (17th of October) & Dundalk away (24th of October).
Remaining Dundalk fixtures
Athlone Town away (10th of October), Shamrock Rovers at home (13th of October), Bray Wanderers away (17th of October) & Cork City at home (24th of October).