Club: Cork City FC.
Manager: John Caulfield.
Stadium: Turners Cross
Highest attendance this season: 6,672 vs Dundalk
Highest league goalscorer: Graham Cummins/Kieran Sadlier (12 goals each)
Mid-season position: 1st
How we thought they would do
A challenge was expected from the likes of Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and St. Pats. Indifferent form towards the end of last season however, showed the need to strengthen the side – particularly given the sale of Sean Maguire and Kevin O’ Connor. Key areas which needed attention saw players brought in to solve this issue, a back-up to Mark McNulty, extra bodies in defensive positions, creativity in midfield and a new forward were amongst John Caulfield’s wish list. Much was expected of the team as a result with confidence still high following the double winning season and so far they have delivered in acceptable amounts.
How they really have done
Currently sitting top of the Premier Division but with Dundalk not far behind it has the feel of being very similar to previous seasons at the summit. Cork City have built their success upon a strong home form and indeed, they have not dropped any points at Turners Cross to date. Credit goes to the incoming Sean McLoughlin for establishing a firm partnership with Alan Bennett. Aaron Barry has also performed well when asked to step in. The midfield has generally remained strong although the absence of Gearóid Morrissey affected the balance at times.
It is up front where City are at their most deadly. Graham Cummins has provided the fulcrum of the side since arriving back from Scotland. Strong in the air, combined with an ability to bring others into play, he has succeeding in keeping opposition defences busy. Kieran Sadlier’s shooting ability has seen him emerge as one of the leagues most dangerous players while Karl Sheppard has come back into the side after strong displays from the bench to provide an alternative option.
Moment of the season so far
In the last minute, City were defending a corner up in Inchicore with the home side desperate to bag an equaliser. As the goalkeeper sprinted up for the set-piece, a scramble ensued. The ball found its way towards Sadlier in his own box. Knowing the keeper was still absent, he launched an effort goal wards. A full 90 yards out, it still had the direction and power to end up in the net. Fans from all ends could not help but applaud his audacity after witnessing what surely will be a contender for Goal of the Season.
Star Player: Kieran Sadlier
Kieran Sadlier has come on leaps and bounds this season. He was highly regarded before his move from Sligo last season, a status which has only been reinforced so far this season. Not alone his goal-scoring; crossing and link-up play as well as his final product has improved immensely.
Surprise star player: Shane Griffin
Shane Griffin has become a major part of Caulfield’s plans. This might have been a surprise to many who witnessed his early difficulties adjusting to playing further back but the former attacker is now defending league champions the first choice left-back. His tackling and positional sense has come on considerably and he has also managed to link up well with Sadlier ahead of him.
Young player: Conor McCarthy
Conor McCarthy has proven to be a capable replacement at centre-half when introduced. Firm in the tackle, comfortable on the ball and strong in the air. Bennett has been a calming influence of course, but he also has performed well without him. A former GAA player, he has certainly helped make Turners Cross somewhat of a fortress.
Star signing: Graham Cummins
Graham Cummins was signed to fill the gap up front. A different player from Maguire in terms of physical stature and style. He initially admitted fears about being able to adjust to a different league. He gives the team a predatory edge that they were lacking towards the end of last year. Many of his goals have contributed heavily towards their points total so far, although not as willing to drop deep, he nevertheless has provided many assists. His height is a potent threat on corners and long balls should the side need to mix it up.
What they need to do in the transfer market
Perhaps not much action expected in terms of signings. However, there might be some fringe players departing on loan to other clubs. Caulfield is generally happy with what he has but certainly do not rule out a move for if an injury crisis crops up.
Where we see them finishing
Top two at the very least. Both games against Dundalk will go a long way to deciding the ultimate winner.