Sweet sat­is­fac­tion

Caulfield: This isn’t the end. It’s the be­gin­ning.

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - FRONT PAGE -

John Caulfield didn’t hit the town with his play­ers to cel­e­brate Cork City’s title win af­ter the draw with Derry at Turner’s Cross on Tuesday night.

“I just went home and then to the lo­cal with a few of my bud­dies,” he re­veals. “That was en­joy­able for me, to be hon­est. For the lads who went into town, it was their night any­way.

“And I sup­pose,” he smiles, “there’s the age gap as well.”

Then, the morn­ing af­ter the night be­fore, the man­ager was back at work.

“It’s a bit dif­fer­ent when you’re still in the sea­son,” he points out. “You have a match com­ing up, another one next week and then a cup fi­nal. You’re still in that mode. But when you win, it’s easy. You don’t feel tired.”

What Caulfield did feel was an un­der­stand­able mix­ture of de­light, sat­is­fac­tion, and pride at his team’s achieve­ment. But, also, he ad­mits, a touch of re­lief. “It’s been a great sea­son,” he says, “but be­cause of that, the ex­pec­ta­tions were that we were go­ing to win the league long be­fore we did whereas I was well aware that when you lose a player of Sean Maguire’s abil­ity it was go­ing to have an ef­fect.

“What was frus­trat­ing was that we had put so much en­ergy into try­ing to bring in some­one that might fill his boots — which was al­ways go­ing to be dif­fi­cult, any­way — and though we got close a cou­ple of times, it didn’t hap­pen.

“Did I think we’d strug­gle to score goals? Be­ing hon­est, I didn’t think it would be as dif­fi­cult but, at the same time, I knew things were go­ing to be much tougher than they were.

“Maguire made things hap­pen and even when the team weren’t play­ing well he could get you goals out of nowhere or else, be­cause he was such a marked man, it al­lowed other play­ers more free­dom in the fi­nal third.”

With Dun­dalk re­dis­cov­er­ing their stride and City dis­play­ing more stag­ger than swag­ger as the fin­ish­ing line ap­proached, had the man­ager ever shared the ner­vous­ness of those fans who be­gan to fear that the im­prob­a­ble, if not seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble, might ac­tu­ally come to pass?

“There’s al­ways an el­e­ment of con­cern when you’re deal­ing with the fact that most of your play­ers had never won a league and, be­cause of the phe­nom­e­nal run we’d had, ex-

pec­ta­tions were so high,” he re­flects. “Peo­ple say­ing we were al­ready cham­pi­ons when we were not. And all the hype did have an ef­fect.

“But I think re­al­ity hit home for the play­ers in that game against Dun­dalk two weeks ago. That (1-1) re­sult was cru­cial. If we hadn’t played well that night and — even though we should have won the match — come out with a draw in the end, cer­tainly with the way Dun­dalk were go­ing, any­thing was pos­si­ble.

“But what peo­ple over­look is that we weren’t the first team to find the run-in dif­fi­cult and the fact is we have still won the league with a cou­ple of games to go. And we’re in another cup fi­nal as well.”

Yet, as is so of­ten the way in foot­ball, even be­fore this sea­son of po­ten­tial dou­ble glory reaches its con­clu­sion for Cork City, spec­u­la­tion is al­ready rife about pos­si­ble and prob­a­ble changes in the squad ahead of next year.

Caulfield says: “You hear talk of hav­ing to re­build but the first thing I’ll say is that I’m giv­ing the play­ers the op­tion to stay – I think they de­serve that op­por­tu­nity. I’ve had talks with play­ers on­go­ing for a cou­ple of months and we’re in a good place with a lot of them. But do I ex­pect some fel­lows will go? Ab­so­lutely. I know that some have al­ready been of­fered deals by other clubs that are out­side our wage bracket.

“And if a fel­low wants to get more money some­where else, fine. But my thing is to try to sell them what we’ve got here: Tro­phies, medals, the en­vi­ron­ment, the crowd, Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball next sea­son and, over­all, where the club is at go­ing for­ward.

“So while I would hope to keep the ma­jor­ity of the squad, at the same time I know I will need to bring in some play­ers, maybe three or four guys to make us bet­ter again. And not nec­es­sar­ily from just within Ire­land. We al­ready know that Ryan De­laney is one who def­i­nitely has to go back, Bur­ton have said that. And, of course, we know we have to bring in a cen­tre-for­ward. “That’s the key po­si­tion.” And though his con­tract is up for re­newal, one key fig­ure at the club who def­i­nitely isn’t go­ing any­where is the man­ager him­self.

“A few things had to be sorted out but there’s no is­sue,” says Caulfield.

“The club are go­ing in the right di­rec­tion, we have new struc­tures in place, we have a new general man­ager com­ing on board, and I’m thrilled with the way things are go­ing. I just wanted to con­cen­trate on get­ting the league won but play­ers I’ve al­ready talked to about next sea­son who have agreed ver­bally to stay, know I’m stay­ing too.

“The big­ger pic­ture for us is that it was all about win­ning the league and get­ting into the Cham­pi­ons League. All our en­ergy went into that. The fact that we’re in the cup fi­nal is a bonus. And it’s not like

I’m here say­ing, ‘we’ve won the league, we’ve done it, that’s it.’ I felt the cup fi­nal last year was a spring­board for the team and the club — and I think this title will be another.”

Pic­ture: Eóin Noo­nan/Sportsfile

Pic­tures: Sportsfile and Inpho

From left: City boss John Caulfield dur­ing the FAI Cup quar­ter-fi­nal with Long­ford; celebrating the de­feat of Lim­er­ick in the cup semi-fi­nal, and then savour­ing the mo­ment af­ter City clinched the league title with his wife Gráinne and daugh­ter, Sinéad.

Liam Mackey

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