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Cork boss Caulfield plans to make life hell for Saints

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John Caulfield (left) pictured alongside Pat Morley after their league championship triumph in 1993, is hoping to steer Cork City back to the glory days

John Caulfield (left) pictured alongside Pat Morley after their league championship triumph in 1993, is hoping to steer Cork City back to the glory days

John Caulfield (left) pictured alongside Pat Morley after their league championship triumph in 1993, is hoping to steer Cork City back to the glory days

IT will be like old times at Turner's Cross tonight when a big crowd descends on the venue to see what John Caulfield has to offer. The difference is that they will be looking out for his tactical nous, not his striking prowess.

For the ex-City frontman, the fixture list has thrown up the hardest possible start to his life as manager of the club he represented with such distinction for almost 15 years before his retirement in 2000.

The visit of St Patrick's Athletic has energised the commercial department and tickets are selling well on Leeside as the club begins its 30th anniversary year. Caulfield wants a promising young generation of players to sample the kind of atmosphere that he enjoyed regularly in his pomp.

He knows that the public will only respond if Cork are at the right end of the table and fears that the future of the club is at stake if they spend another campaign in mid-table.

SUSPECT

Therefore, a good start to the new campaign is of considerable importance. The visit of the title favourites will expose any flaws and you suspect that the Roscommon native would have preferred a softer landing for his promising group of players – especially as short-term injuries have ruled out strikers Danny Morrissey and Michael Rafter.

"From a commercial point of view, certain people will be clapping their hands," says Caulfield. "Personally, I'd have preferred a different game. It's extremely difficult. Pat's are the champions, they've added to their squad bringing in the likes of (Keith) Fahey and they have a far superior budget.

"But the beauty of sport is that there are always upsets. There will be a huge crowd, I know they will be vocal and, hopefully, we can deliver a performance that will have them singing from the rafters."

The City hierarchy turned to Caulfield in an attempt to make the leap from the chasing pack into serious title challengers. They finished sixth last term, 25 points behind Liam Buckley's charges.

"At the end of the day, I'm not here to leave things the way they were," said Caulfield earlier this week.

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"My role is to drive on and bring us back to being a very strong competitive team. The bottom line is, if we're in the situation of mid-table for another two seasons, the club won't be in existence.

"End of story, because financially there's a huge pressure and while we don't have major budgets, our travelling expenses are phenomenal. So, we have to be up there being competitive and bringing back the crowds.

"I remember the League Cup final in 1999 – there was 11,000 people at Turner's Cross (v Derry City). We're talking about getting a regular 4,000 in the gate. Starting on Friday, we'll get a lot of people back who haven't come in a long time. What we're trying to do is give them a performance that will keep them coming more regularly.

"Since FORAS (supporters group) have taken over the club, we've never been near the top of the Premier Division. From a standard point of view, we've been well off the pace."

The unavailability of Morrissey and Rafter reduces his firepower, although Anthony Elding, Sligo Rovers' FAI Cup final hero last November, is poised to make his league debut. Caulfield has promised that his strategy will be about more than containing an opponent which is rich in resources.

"We're not going to go out at Turner's Cross to sit back and invite teams onto us," he asserts. "It's not in my nature. If you sit back, you put pressure on yourselves."

Another new manager facing a tough opener this evening is Drogheda's Robbie Horgan, who is preparing for a Louth derby with title contenders Dundalk. "It's a fantastic fixture to have so early in the season," says the former 'keeper. "The fans of both sides want bragging rights and there is no better way to get them than beating your local rivals."

Elsewhere, Bohemians travel to Belfield to take on UCD, while Limerick welcome Alan Mathews' Bray Wanderers to Thomond Park. The Shannonsiders' new captain Shane Duggan – a winter recruit from Cork – is excited about assuming a position of responsibility with his hometown club.

His father, Ger, won a league and FAI Cup with Limerick in his playing days. "It's an unbelievable achievement for me to get the armband and lead the lads out in Thomond," enthused Duggan. "It's in my head most days what it's going to be like leading them out. I can't wait for it."


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