Cork seek to make their own history
Leesiders have to halt Dundalk run to keep league title race interesting
Published 03/06/2016 | 02:30
Cork City know they have to take their fate into their own hands if they are to going to become the League of Ireland champions this year.
That's because nobody else seems capable of doing them a favour.
The Leesiders might have expected to close the gap between themselves and leaders Dundalk by going on a seven-game winning run. Instead, they remain four points off the defending champions because Stephen Kenny's side have won eight on the bounce.
It means that tonight's showdown at Turner's Cross is the biggest game of the season by some distance.
As the last game before a mid-season break where both clubs will be housed in a Portuguese training camp, the outcome may well determine whether the second half of the campaign is capable of providing any suspense.
The title race has already developed into a two-horse affair between the sides that have fought it out for the past two seasons, with the trophy ending up in Louth on both occasions.
When Cork followed up their pre-season President's Cup success with a first league win against the Lilywhites under John Caulfield at Oriel Park in March, they hoped they had turned the corner.
But they dropped points as Dundalk built up momentum, with the other clubs incapable of finding a serious chink in the armour.
"You've got to take points from Dundalk," said Cork winger Steven Beattie. "You can't be depending on other teams.
"You win seven in a row and you're still four behind. Credit to them, but from a neutral's perspective it's going to be some game.
"It (Dundalk run) isn't disheartening. You can use it the other way, use it as motivation to keep going. You're thinking they are going to get three points every Friday so you have to get the three points, and we've done that."
Beattie, a 27-year-old Dubliner who played college football in the United States, genuinely believes that Cork are capable of upsetting Kenny's side. He thinks they have the edge in terms of strength in depth and also took heart from the Cork display in that breakthrough win in Dundalk's back yard.
"We know what to expect from Dundalk, everyone can name their starting XI," he said. "They don't have great depth but we have lads that can come off the bench into the starting team.
"I think we bullied them up at Oriel Park in the league game, and not too many teams do that, so we will have to be in their faces again tonight.
"I actually think we have the edge in having beaten them twice already this year - that's the only stat that matters and we'd hope to make it three on the bounce."
Beattie was not impressed by Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick's Athletic in the first series of matches, and his manager, Caulfield, shares the view.
"It's very disappointing," he said. "But am I surprised? Not really. Because at the start of the season, I was unsure where the other challenge was going to come from.
"I'm sure everyone in the league will be hoping we stay there.
"People say we've been second twice. We came from nowhere in the first year. Last year was disappointing because we brought in players that we felt would make the difference but I made some bad signings, and it was quite evident. We decided to clear the decks, and change our style, our age profile, the type of players we had.
"You admire and congratulate Dundalk for upping the standard. But we want to get there. Last year we weren't - this year we feel we are."
Tonight's 90 minutes will be extremely informative. Dundalk's former Cork winger Daryl Horgan travels in good heart after scooping the Airtricity/SWAI monthly award for May.
"I think there's a bit of the edge to these games now over the last few years with us both going for the title," he said. "Then there was the FAI Cup final last year too. (Dundalk won 1-0)
"I wouldn't say we owe them one, I wouldn't go along the lines of that. We want to win, like we want to win every game and we want to go seven points clear."
Cork City v Dundalk, live, Setanta Irl, 8.0