Derek Coughlan gives his insight into Cork City’s season thus far and comments on the main differences to the game since he last won the title with the Rebel Army’s 2005 squad, as well as his title with Bohemians in 2002/03 under Stephen Kenny. Derek also lets us know his thoughts on the game this coming Friday.
First off John Caulfield has made a huge difference at Cork City this season. He’s brought a passion and a sense of pride to the club again and everything seems to be going in the right direction.
They’ve done amazingly well to get to the position they’re in. I don’t think anyone would have seen this coming at the start of the year. They deserve to be where they are; they’ve worked hard and have had a lot of resilience throughout the year. City have won games where in other years they might not have managed to come away with the result.
The fact that some of the older generation of Colin Healy, Dan Murray and Mark McNulty are still there gives the side more experience and as well as that they have the freshness of all the young lads. Someone like Gearoid Morrissey who is still a young enough player but has been at the club for a few years gives City the right balance of young and old in the team at the moment.
Everything seems to have clicked with them and having the right balance is very important. When you get that balance – make the most of it because it’s not an easy thing to manufacture. The older players can’t just be older players, they need to be able to play as well. An example is Colin Healy who’s been nominated for PFA Ireland Player of the Year and it looks like he’s having a second coming so to speak.
When comparing the game against Dundalk this Friday to the Derry City match I was involved in back in 2005, it’s identical, but it’s away this time. We needed to win and we were playing at home so we were like Dundalk that day. It’s almost a replay of 2005 for City due to the excitement around the game. Maybe it’s a pity it’s not on in the Cross but there’s a massive crowd going up from Cork so it’s a special time. You couldn’t write the script for this match-up.
Some of the players from back in 2005 when I won the league with City are still there like Liam Kearney, John O’Flynn and even Mark McNulty who’s not even that old and has been at the club for a long time.
They have all kept themselves fit and in this day and age players are good at minding themselves. A prime example is O’Flynn who looks fresh and Kearney still looks as good as he was back in 2005 even though he’s playing in more of a midfield role as apposed to when he was younger; he was a speedy winger but he still looks fresh and fit. He also still has the hunger so once his body holds up he can keep playing.
From playing alongside John Caulfield in the late 1990s and 2000s it’s come as no surprise he has gone onto management. He lives and breaths, eats and drinks football. He’s so dedicated, he has that way about him. When we were young players he’d always pull you aside and gee you up, and he had that persona to be a manager.
Even when he was managing Avondale and UCC I would have always loved to have seen John get in there but I think he timed it right. He did his groundwork first in the Munster Senior League and the club was crying out for John to come into the club, a bit like when Dave Barry took over, he was ‘Mr. Cork City’ through and through. John did so well in the MSL that it was just a matter of time before he came in at City and hopefully it’ll keep getting better for him.
With John coming back and a lot of local players playing for the club it creates a special bond between the fans and the team. Cork City is nearly like a GAA club within a soccer environment and it has that atmosphere in the club. Having Cork players there and with so many to choose from, it’s just a matter of someone going out there and bringing in these players and giving them a chance.
That’s what John does, because there’s a lot of talent in Cork and they just need to be given a chance and John optimises that. He’s done it and it’s paid off for him and long may it continue because if you look at the Irish team compared to even 20 years ago our good young players were in England but if you look now there could be six or seven in the Irish first XI that played League of Ireland until their early ’20s.
Starting in the League of Ireland is the way to go now rather than bringing in English players who are coming to the end of their career you unearth the little gems here and I think that’s what John believes in.
A lot of people have questioned why it’s been so long since Stephen Kenny has won the league despite being so close in the past. I think he did great things at Bohs and it just took a bit of time for him to get the right job again because he has good ideas, he’s good with the players and obviously things just didn’t go for him in the last 10 or 11 years.
It happens with managers across the water as well and they don’t do well with certain clubs. They eventually find a club that fits and the timing has to be right with the right players. It’s happened for Kenny this year and he has done a fantastic job with Dundalk because they came from nowhere to becoming a great footballing side and they’re very impressive this year.
Having lost to Cork City back when we won the title in 2005 Kenny will have experienced it and he can see what can happen going into a game needing to win. He was on the other end of it the last time and I’m sure he’s hoping to do what we did to him back in 2005 but realistically in comes down to one game.
It’s like a cup final and that’s the way both teams have to go into it and for Cork City if it goes to a draw well and good but you can’t go in with that mentality, you have to into the game thinking you’re a winner. Not a mentality of hoping for a draw and that things will go well. City have to go in all guns blazing and play with a high intensity and that’s the key for City on Friday night. They know they’re good enough on recent form.
Obviously Dundalk had a brilliant start to the season, but the difference between winning and losing is huge so City must go there with a winning mentality. They must forget about who needs a draw and who needs a win and just go into the game giving it your all by putting your body on the line.
Commenting on the game itself, I think it’s a pity that it’s a plastic pitch, that throws another factor into the whole equation. Dundalk will have to be favourites because of the plastic pitch. they’re playing on it week in, week out so for them everything is based around that plastic pitch so it’s a huge advantage to be playing on it all the time. All the other sides in the league only play on it once or twice a year.
If Cork can play with that high intensity game and a winning mentality for 90 minutes and go for it, hopefully things will go City’s way on Friday night.
Dundalk 1-2 Cork City or a 2-2 draw.
I can’t see this game being a scoreless draw, I think there’ll be goals due to the pitch and everything that’s at stake. The players will be nervous as well.
There’s a bit of my heart wanting a good result for City and I think there will definitely be goals in the game. I just hope City come out on the right side.
Derek Coughlan, Pundit Arena.