Monday 18 November 2019

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City target win to finish 2019

Wednesday, 23rd October, 2019 4:08pm

With one match to go in the season, Cork City FC are going in search for their third win on the trot this Friday night at Tallaght Stadium against Shamrock Rovers. 2019 has been a year to forget for City and ending this year on somewhat of a winning streak would put a slightly brighter note on a dismal year for the league champions of 2017.

Winger Daire O'Connor joined the club in November 2018 when City were in a healthy position as SSE Airtricity League runners-up and FAI Cup runners-up. However, they'll finish the league on Friday night third from the bottom in eighth place with a long off-season of change ahead of manager Neale Fenn as he faces his first full season as manager in 2020.

A win against back-to-back league winners Dundalk last week, where O'Connor scored the only and winning goal, was certainly a boost for players and fans says the former UCD player.

“There’s not many teams that have beat them this year so from a Cork point of view, it’s good to get one over them. It doesn’t mask the season by any means but it does mean that we were a bit happier after the game last Friday, so at least the fans will have some sort of happy memory from this season if they remember that game over any other.

“Everyone is self reflective, if you told anyone in the League of Ireland that Cork would end up in this position, nobody would believe it and obviously it’s just a combination of different errors and mistakes.

“We've all been trying to put our finger on it but if we were able to put our finger on it, we would have rectified it so it’s been difficult but the last month or so things have improved - we are due a bit of luck, something that we haven’t had,” he adds.

“I think somebody pointed out that we are 14 or 15 points off that fourth spot and if you look at the amount of games that we lost in the last minutes...as bad as the season has been, if we had some luck with the last minute goals that went in, we could potentially be a lot higher. Obviously that’s football and you take those chances and we lost those games but it hasn’t gone to plan.

“Dundalk are the benchmark that everyone wants to hit at the moment. With their massive, massive budget and their group of players, they could put out a B team and probably still challenge for Europe. Clubs around the country can only dream of that, and as far as we can see, they’re going to carry that on in to next year but we will take great confidence from beating them.”

O'Connor is the club's second highest goalscorer for the season with five goals. A mixed season, he struggled with injury and finding the target but has hit form in the last month, although he admits he isn't close to the goal target he set at the start of this year's campaign.

“I haven’t been close to what I set a target for. I set a target of ten goals and I got four or five in all competitions so, unless I pull off a miracle against Shamrock Rovers, I’m a bit off that! But it’s been a difficult season from a personal point of view and a collective point of view. I can try and hit that target next season. The harsh reality is that none of us really had it for a good portion of the season but there is one more game left, so if you come back to me in a week I might have a better answer on my target!”

Friday night's match doesn't count for anything in terms of league positions although second placed Shamrock Rovers will look for a competitive game with the FAI Cup Final against Dundalk to come on 3 November. For City, it's all about finishing the season on a win, says O'Connor.

“That’s what happens in the League of Ireland doesn’t it? At the end of the season, dead rubber games, but as players you don’t view it as that, you’re always under the spotlight. The team (Rovers) has come second in the league, they’ve a cup final coming up, we want to challenge ourselves against them. We got a good result against them the last time at home, we drew with them 1-1, so from that point of view, you we can’t be too scared of them at all.

“It would be nice to finish the season with three wins in a row. In a way, the season is finishing at a bad time for us just because we’re starting to pick up form. I think everyone’s realising that, so if we could get three wins from three at the end of the season, I think it would give everyone a great lift, even to enjoy the off-season.

“The last memories of the season would be positive so there is plenty to look forward to and play for from that point of view. It’s frustrating, even not just as a team but from a personal point of view, I've started to score goals so you kind of wish you had three or four more games to play for, but if anything, that will give us that added hunger. If, at the end of the season, we hadn’t won any games are we hadn’t been scoring, we'd be wishing for the season to end and you never as a player want to be in that position. It’s good to have that base to work on for next year, you’re in the off-season so you’re more eager and more hungry to get back if you finish the season well.”

As for 2020?

“There will be a lot of changes,” reflects O'Connor. “Obviously I’m contracted here for next year but I’m not going to come out and say we’re going to win the league. I think we have to see what happens in off-season, see what happens in the pre-season. I think that we have a lot of young players coming through so we should be aiming at least for a European place - that’s well within our realms.”

Cork City FC face Shamrock Rovers this Friday night at Tallaght Stadium at 7.45pm.

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