Caulfield galvanising 'a club and a city' as Cork eye summit
It wasn't rational and it wasn't planned, but for John Caulfield it was the right thing to do. His wage slips from Diageo were generous and reliable and would be there for years to come. So Caulfield did what any soccer man would do. Kissed them goodbye.
An advertisement in a local paper had caught his eye. "Cork City FORAS Co-op are looking for a manager for their first-team. The candidate must be driven ... " He stopped reading and made the call. Having managed UCC and Avondale, he'd been bitten by the bug and not only had the game, but also the club, in his blood.
Cork City, where he held the appearance and goalscoring records – sharing the latter landmark with Pat Morley – had formed a huge part of his life for 14 years.
And now they needed a manager as much as he needed his fix. "When the job came up this time, I just felt it was now or never and that if I didn't go for it, I would regret it," said Caulfield.
Eight months on there are no regrets from either party. "He hasn't just galvanised a club but a city," observed Dave Barry, a former colleague and manager of Caulfield's.
The results back up Barry's view. Forty points from 18 games have taken Cork to second place in the league and they know that if they draw with Drogheda tonight top spot is theirs.
"There is that buzz around the city again that had gone in the last few years," said Dan Murray, the club captain when they last won the league in 2005.
"There is a bit more love for football and we have to build on that every week. For this club to survive, we need to be challenging for trophies."
That a team who finished sixth in the last two seasons and haven't won anything since 2008 should reach such dizzying heights so quickly surprised many.
After all, their best player from last year – Daryl Horgan – had left, their new manager was untested at League of Ireland level, three of their four strikers were injured and the fourth, Mark O'Sullivan, had only ever played non-league football. But O'Sullivan, who played under Caulfield at Avondale, has proved to be the find of the season and yesterday was named the SSE Airtricity Player of the Month winner for June.
"I owe the manager a lot. He has stuck by me," said O'Sullivan. "If someone had told me that this would happen, that at my age (he is 31) I'd finally be signed by a League of Ireland team and would get the chance to play for a team that is challenging for the league, I'd never have believed them."
But it has happened. Cork and O'Sullivan's belief is growing by the week.