After last weekend’s defeat at UCD, Tommy Dunne’s Cork City side will look to get off to a good start at Turner’s Cross when Drogheda United come to town on Friday night.
Dunne’s team were completely bereft of any attacking threat against the students in Belfield and will need to make a marked improvement up front if they are to take the points in front of what’s sure to be a big home support.
The First Division champions could be without up to half a dozen players for the game though, with Colin Healy, Tadhg Purcell and Davin O’Neill all major doubts along with long-term absentees Neal Horgan, Kevin Murray and Stephen Mulcahy.
Daryl Horgan may return to the fold however, after a bout of flu ruled him out seven days ago, while Dunne is likely to stick with the same back four that conceded a very sloppy first half goal against the College.
The Leesiders’ boss is expecting a tricky test from the Louth team: “Looking back on last week’s defeat, we need to improve on that performance. UCD was a difficult place to go, the surface was not the best and it was a difficult game for us, so with our first home game tomorrow, I hope that we will respond and get our season up and running. I think the players are looking forward to this game, and it cannot come quick enough from our point of view.
“Mick Cooke is a shrewd operator in the transfer market, and he has put together a good squad. It will be a very tough game for us, but we will be positive and go out to play, and I think we just need to make sure that we are a bit more diligent and a bit more aggressive at both ends of the pitch.”
Having come close to causing an opening day upset against the champions last week, Mick Cooke’s Drogheda United side travel south optimistic of getting points on the board. And with the three Brennan brothers all available for selection after serving suspensions last week, although Sean is an injury doubt along with Fabio O’Brien, their squad will be strengthened considerably.
“Turner’s Cross won't be an easy place to go, obviously Tommy's side got caught on the hop by UCD and by all accounts the pitch didn't help them,” Cooke said in the run up to Friday night’s game. “But I expect the pitch down in Cork to be like a carpet which will help them, but it will also benefit us. They will be no pushovers and they have added well over the close season. This being the first home game of the season we are expecting a great atmosphere and this is something we will have to contend with.”
Cooke admitted that they tried to disrupt Shamrock Rovers’ playing style last week and it almost paid off, the manager delighted with his player’s attitude, and he had a special mention for Tiarnan Mulvenna, who played through the pain barrier against the Hoops.
“Our plan worked well against Shamrock Rovers last week, we tried to play a scrappy game and keep it tight at the back which is exactly what we did. But it really knocked us conceding just before half time. I thought with 15 minutes to go we were really dominating the game and if we just had one chance.
It's easy to go under when you concede like that, but our lads showed some great strength and it says a lot when you see Rovers going for the corner trying to shut up shop late on in a game. We have a few players back now for the trip to Cork which will be a massive boost, but there is a healthy competition for places in this squad. Credit has to be given to Tiarnan for even getting on the bench let alone actually playing. But fair play to him, he did what we asked of him.”
Referee: Richie Winter.
This is the first meeting between the sides since October 23, when the teams played out a scoreless draw at Turner’s Cross in front of 1,701 fans.
Dan Murray was sent off in that meeting; on Friday night he will run out in front of the Cork City home fans for the first time since leaving for Shamrock Rovers two years ago.
Only four of Cork’s starting XI from that day are likely to play from the off this time (Mark McNulty, Dan Murray, Danny Murphy and Shane Duggan), while Alan McNally will be the only survivor from that game for United.
Cork City 8/13; Draw 12/5; Drogheda United 5/1.
1-1. Drogheda look great odds at 5/1 and with City unlikely to possess the biggest attacking threat it’s sure to be a close game. A score draw.
Cork City Injury News: Stephen Mulcahy, Kevin Murray, Neal Horgan, Davin O’Neill (doubt), Tadhg Purcell (doubt), Colin Healy (doubt).
Cork City Suspensions: None.
Drogheda United Injury News: Paul Crowley, Declan O’Brien (doubt), Sean Brennan (doubt).
Drogheda United Suspensions: Eric Foley.
Alan Smith works as a sub-editor for the Guardian newspaper in London. Originally from Cork, he freelances for several other newspapers and websites. Follow him on twitter @alansmith90.