The news that John Dunleavy is to miss out on at least four months of action has come at a terrible time for the Leesiders but it could have far reaching consequences on a push for silverware this year.
Since coming to Cork City the Donegal man immediately had the traits of a future captain. Settling into his role as either right-back or central midfielder, Dunleavy could be seen screaming instructions at others around the pitch.
For a player so young to come into a new club and react this way was as refreshing as it was unexpected. We soon realised that the character of the now-23-year-old defender/midfielder was one which immediately made him a leader, no matter what club he was at.
This natural command he has on the pitch will be massively missed from now until the end of the season. The one saving grace for the Leesiders will be that midfield is already a hotbed of talent with new signings Gavan Holohan and Liam Miller providing fantastic options to the already reliable figures like Colin Healy and Garry Buckley.
It is however, in defence where one sees the loss of Dunleavy impacting most. It is where the former Wolves man looks most comfortable despite his clear ability on the ball.
His solidity at right-back has been a key feature in the Rebel Army’s ability to defend from the flanks. Although John Kavanagh has now come to the fore with Man of the Match displays, Dunleavy’s presence on the pitch will certainly be missed.
He is often seen cajoling those around him to lift their game to the high standards he sets for himself. There are others who can lead this team, notably Colin Healy and Dan Murray, however there is no denying the former Ireland under-21 international gives City an extra boost.
It is the loss of this extra edge that could make a substantial difference this year.
Determination and the will to win, not just every game, but every tackle and every header are paramount in any champion’s arsenal and this is just one such quality the 23-year-old has in spades.
Since joining the club in January 2012 one would find it difficult to question Dunleavy’s drive and incessant ability to go that one extra inch.
Unfortunately, it is that extra inch which often makes or breaks a tilt at a title.
This writer is not criticising the passion within this Cork City team as a whole, but they may just struggle to find that inch with Dunleavy out for so long.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena