The view from Cork City ahead of tonight's potential title decider with Dundalk
Here's the City perspective ahead of the huge game at Turner's Cross...
Cork City haven't been in a Premier Division title race since they last won the league back in '05 but this season under John Caulfield they're right up there with Dundalk and it looks like it's going to be a two-horse race until the end of the season.
Everything seems to be going well for City at the moment, the team is doing well, they have by far the biggest attendance in the country and the feel-good factor surrounding the club is capturing the imagination on Leeside but tonight is a huge night in the destiny of their season as they host league leaders Dundalk at Turner's Cross.
To get a sense of exactly how big a game this is for City, we asked Ruairi O'Hagan, who is a sports broadcaster with Cork's RedFM and a lifelong City fan, to put into words exactly what the next 90 minutes could mean for the Rebel Army, have a read below...
It's perhaps a cliche to call this a "make or break game", or a "season defining game", or "the biggest game of the season".
But it's all three of those cliches.
Win and Cork City return to the top of table, level on points with Friday's opponents Dundalk. Lose, and we're six points behind after losing two on the bounce, with tricky games against St Pats and Derry City to follow.Friday night is absolutely huge.
It's been an incredible season for John Caulfield's men. Nobody expected to hear the words "title challenge" being mentioned so freely midway through the season. It seems to have turned around so quickly since the City legend took the reigns last season, following the sacking of Tommy Dunne.
Building on a solid defence, where the inspired Dan Murray has seemingly turned into Franco Baresi in the past year, City have conceded just 16 goals in their 21 games so far this term. And Caulfield has captured lightning in a bottle in the form of Mark O'Sullivan. The former Avondale United striker has made the step up from the Munster Senior League to Airtricity League football look easy. If he didn't kick a ball for the rest of the season he'd still be my player of the year. Incredible in the air, superb at holding the ball up and bringing others into the game, Sully has been a revelation.
Colin Healy has been quietly pulling the strings in midfield, the former Irish international showing his class in the City engine room. Slightly ahead of him Gearóid Morrissey was turning in eye catching performances, with his deft touches and clever through balls for the City wingers. The man they call Chops was massively missed in the 2-0 defeat at the hands of Bohemians, and is rated as 50/50 for Friday’s game. Whether or not the Mahon native plays on Friday will have a massive bearing on this game, as City have looked bereft of ideas without him.
Which brings us to the big question – can City win on Friday? Undoubtedly, yes, yes they can. Critics will point to the 4-0 hammering that Dundalk issued to the Rebel Army at Oriel Park and say that City aren’t as good a team. That was an off day. It happens to the best of them. What City need to do is get at Dundalk right from the start. Put them on the back foot. Get the ball down the flanks and put crosses on to the head of Marky Sull. Get tight on the Dundalk dangermen and not give them a sniff. Play the game at a high tempo, get the ball in behind the Dundalk defence. Unsettle them.
The crowd will have a massive bearing on the night. There is no better place to be than a packed Turner’s Cross with the Shed end in full voice. The gaff will be jointed on Friday. The atmosphere will be electric. And that will inspire this City team.
I think we’ll win. We have to win. And I think we will. I’m going with a 2-0 City win, with both goals from Mark O’Sullivan.
I cannot wait for Friday night.
A big thanks to Ruairi O’Hagan for the piece.