In this week’s ‘Hendo Blog’, Stephen Henderson lauds the performances of all involved with Cork City FC as they look to challenge Dundalk right up until the end of the season.
To dream ‘The Impossible Dream’ would be somewhat of an apt entrance song for the players’ arrival to the pitch for Cork City’s remaining home games in the LOI Premier Division.
Regardless of what happens, the Rebels from Cork have had a wonderful season and with European football all but secured, they can go into the final few games of the season in a somewhat relaxed frame of mind which could prove dangerous for current leaders Dundalk.
I was fortunate to have been part of the coaching staff in 2004 when Cork City embarked on their fantastic Inter Toto cup run under the guidance of Pat Dolan and an excellent chairman in Brian Lennox.
Back then you could sense a genuine chemistry building between the team and supporters, a bond so important that some years later it would eventually (if unexpectedly) see those very supporters become not just the clubs saviours, but its owners.
I brought my then team Waterford United to Turners Cross for a league game in the First Division where Cork had hastily arranged a squad of players under the management of Tommy Dunne. Over 4000 rebels showed up on the night to support the team, but more poignantly, their club. It was a massive show of strength from the Rebel Army and although we won that night it was clear that good things were on the horizon for Cork City Football Club.
Cork City will always be grateful to Tommy Dunne for his great work in returning the club to the top tier of Irish football but there was always a sense that Tommy did not really reflect the club or the county’s personality, so on his departure the club had a huge decision to make regarding his successor.
Do they go for a manager with proven credentials but had little feeling for what Cork City and County stood for, or do they take a chance on a CCFC legend with no LOI management experience but has Cork blood pumping through his veins?
There was really only going to be one answer and the job that John Caulfield has done thus far has been nothing short of exceptional.
John completely understands the Cork sporting public’s demand for honesty, hard work , desire and a pride in representing the county. The Cork City supporters adore players like Mark O’Sullivan and before him Graham Cummins not just because of the goals they scored but because they portray everything that is good about Cork sport and the rebel personality.
Caulfield realised early on that in order to garner public support he needed not just one or two players with these qualities but a team full of them. Along with the grace and guile of the likes of Colin Healy, he put almost an entirely local based squad of players together who would run through brick walls for the Cork City badge and public.
While the playing style of this Cork City team is not for the purists it does however deliver the “blood and bandage” type approach that the Cork sporting public demand from their teams, be it through GAA or soccer.
I have to be clear, City can play as well, but I have watched them a number of times this year pound teams into submission which has been really exciting to watch and a credit to all involved.
It is clear John has been influenced by the late great Noel O’Mahony in his playing philosophy but he has also modernised it with his own touch. While John has received a lot of plaudits for Cork City’s revival, the recruitment of John Cotter was another master stroke from Caulfield and his input cannot be under estimated.
The other aspect of John’s management is how he has played the proverbial blinder using the local press to help him build a siege mentality amongst his players and the supporters , using every opportunity to highlight the lack of respect shown by the national media and TV pundits towards his team’s ability to last the course.
Cork City have spent their return to the Premier Division languishing in mid table obscurity and although this would not be seen as a sporting success the club remained prudent and true to their business plan and for that alone, nobody would begrudge their reemergence as title challengers.
It was suggested by many at the start of the season that it would be a miracle if Cork City were to win the league so the irony should not be lost on the fact both City’s Manager and Assistant Manager’s initials are J.C.
Cork City are not back just to make up the numbers, they are a team with a focus and a cause. Do not be surprised if they go all the way.
Stephen Henderson, Pundit Arena.