Losing not an option as Cork and Rovers feel the heat
The form of Dundalk has made tonight's refixed meeting at Turner's Cross an extremely important affair for the two sides that were expected to push Stephen Kenny's side all the way this season.
Cork City and Shamrock Rovers come into this rescheduled fixture seven points off the pace, and the cost of defeat this evening could be significant even at this early stage.
The hosts are in better spirits after an important win over Finn Harps on Friday. They had lost their way since registering their first win against Dundalk under Caulfield in Oriel Park last month.
"I felt that the confidence of some of the lads had dropped a bit," says Caulfield. "While we had been creating loads of chances, we had not been taking them and we needed to get back to winning ways."
Pat Fenlon's Rovers are now searching for momentum after Friday's defeat to Dundalk killed the euphoria hanging over from their thrashing of Bohemians. Gary McCabe's daft dismissal contributed to that result and also rules him out of tonight's game, although Cork are without Kenny Browne, who was sent off against Harps.
Fenlon was fuming after his side's previous defeat to Derry City but he adopted a different stance in the aftermath of the Tallaght loss to the champions.
"I was delighted with the workrate and the attitude," he said. "We finished the game very strongly as well. There's loads in the legs, so we'll bounce into Cork looking to win the game.
The Rovers boss was animated at the final whistle on Friday as he exchanged words with the Dundalk bench but refused to discuss the specifics.
Kenny also declined to go into detail, although he hinted that the tension might have been related to a banner at Dundalk's kit launch in December. It referenced Dundalk winning the 2015 league title in Tallaght and was mentioned by Fenlon beforehand.
"There was a lot of stuff going on about this bloody poster," sighed Kenny. "That was nothing to do with the club, it was CX+ Sports (kit sponsor) - it was their gig, I didn't even know about it."
He did take pleasure from Ronan Finn scoring against his former club, especially as he feels he is now using the player in the correct way. "He spent a bit of his (Rovers) career playing on the right wing," said Kenny.
"There was a feeling in some quarters that physically he couldn't play in a two. I don't where that comes from, it's just the culture of the country we're in. You need players who are expansive and expressive to play in the centre of midfield and he certainly is. He's one of the best players of the modern era."