Chal­leng­ing time ahead for City

Irish Examiner - County - - Sport - John O’Shea

THE 2018 do­mes­tic foot­balling sea­son came to a con­clu­sion on Sun­day af­ter­noon with the FAI Cup fi­nal at the Aviva Sta­dium.

It was Dun­dalk that came away with the sil­ver­ware on of­fer and ce­mented their sta­tus as Ire­land’s num­ber one right now.

This cur­rent Cork City and Dun­dalk ri­valry has been great for Ir­ish foot­ball and for the neu­tral.

Their bat­tles have been en­thralling and they both have pushed each other on. But with re­ported bud­get cuts at the club re­port­edly to the re­gion of €300,000 and also talk of a good few po­ten­tial de­par­tures from the cur­rent play­ing squad, the off­sea­son from a City per­spec­tive prom­ises to be a very fas­ci­nat­ing one in­deed.

The dis­cus­sion and spec­u­la­tion about this player or that player stay­ing or go­ing is sure to be in overdrive, dur­ing a time which is more com­monly re­ferred to as ‘silly sea­son’.

The play­ing squad looks set to be trimmed. If last year is any­thing to go by, then the re­cruit­ment of play­ers will have to be bet­ter this off­sea­son.

That will have to be done by get­ting good qual­ity play­ers with less money.

John Caulfield will have a busy off sea­son in that re­gard. Some of the play­ers he brought in at the start of this sea­son did not have as big an im­pact as he would have wished.

Ef­fi­cient and clever re­cruit­ment will be key for City over the com­ing months. The losses of Stephen Doo­ley and also Sean Maguire meant there was a re­build­ing job do be done in at­tack.

When you look back over the 2018 sea­son, the Dun­dalk at­tack­ing play­ers were more pro­lific than City’s and that was ul­ti­mately cru­cial in de­cid­ing the ti­tle race.

The Li­ly­whites ended the league sea­son with a to­tal of 85 goals scored, com­pared to the 71 of the Leesiders.

In Kieran Sadlier, Cork had on his day is one of the most tal­ented play­ers in the League of Ire­land.

But this sea­son, he prob­a­bly hasn’t hit the heights of his po­ten­tial as much as a Michael Duffy, Pa­trick Hoban or a Pa­trick McEleney have for Dun­dalk.

When one looks back the reign of John Caulfield as City to date, he and the Rebel Army don’t get the credit they de­serve one could ar­gue.

What­ever peo­ple think about their brand of foot­ball, City are a team that have con­sis­tently pro­duced good re­sults dur­ing Caulfield’s reign.

Stephen Kenny’s name is of­ten touted as a po­ten­tial fu­ture Ire­land manger. No­body men­tions John Caulfield, even though he has been the only one to come up with a game plan to over­come this tal­ented Dun­dalk side.

The only team to come close to and also over­come this im­pres­sive Dun­dalk un­der Stephen Kenny in terms of chal­leng­ing for hon­ours is Caulfield’s City.

The mis­sion now for Cork will be to en­sure a squad and a plan is as­sem­bled to mount a chal­lenge on all fronts for 2019.

2019 will hope­fully from a neu­tral point of view see the start of more teams try­ing to bridge the gap and chal­lenge the two sides that have dom­i­nated Ir­ish foot­ball over the past num­ber of years.

Sham­rock Rovers have the po­ten­tial to be­come a ti­tle chal­lenger over the next cou­ple of years.

That was said at the start of this year also mind.

2019 will be a key year for Stephen Bradley one feels in Tal­laght and a more sus­tained chal­lenge to the likes of a Cork City or Dun­dalk in the league stand­ings will be re­quired.

With the back­ing of Swin­don Town owner Lee Power, along with Eu­ro­pean foot­ball to look for­ward to next year, Water­ford could be even stronger next term as well.

The man­age­rial ap­point­ments of Liam Buck­ley at Sligo Rovers and Harry Kenny at St Pat’s should in­ject lev­els of ex­cite­ment among those clubs, while Bohs will be keen to try and build the mo­men­tum they’ve built un­der Keith Long.

How­ever, with Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball to look for­ward to and the con­tin­ued in­vest­ment of US firm Peak6 be­hind, Dun­dalk look set to be even stronger next term and could be too strong for any­one to land a mean­ing­ful blow in the League Of Ire­land ti­tle race.

John Caulfield will be solely con­cerned about get­ting City ready for the 2019 sea­son over the com­ing few months. The team we see line out at Turner’s Cross could be a quite changed one next sea­son.

But as we have seen dur­ing his reign at the club, Caulfield and Cork City seem to thrive on the sta­tus of the un­der­dog.

Pic­ture: Ed­die O’Hare

Cork City’s Karl Sheppard is tack­led by Dun­dalk’s Sean Hoare dur­ing the FAI cup fi­nal at the Aviva.

Pic­ture: Ed­die O’Hare

Cork City fans Cian, An­drew and Ryan Kilkenny and Vanessa Theodoro, Ballincol­lig, at the game.

Pic­ture: Ed­die O’Hare

Cork City’s Gra­ham Cum­mins has words with ref­eree Neil Doyle on Sun­day.

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