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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Colin Healy’s side must refocus after thriller with Shamrock Rovers

SATURDAY: SSE Airtricity League Premier Division: Sligo Rovers v Cork City, The Showgrounds, 7.45pm.

DESPITE conceding two late goals against Shamrock Rovers on Monday, City will come into this game full of confidence.

Of course, the players would have been disappointed to have surrendered a two-goal lead, and the draw against Rovers would have felt like a loss immediately after the game, but having had a few days to reflect on their performance in Tallaght, I believe the players will feel a lot more upbeat about the result than they did leaving Dublin on Monday.

Certainly, before the game, the players would have taken a point, and even though they conceded two late goals, I still believe that it was a point gained rather than two lost.

Cork City's Albin Winbo dejected after the game against Shamrock Rovers ended in a draw.  Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
Cork City’s Albin Winbo dejected after the game against Shamrock Rovers ended in a draw. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

City went to Dublin and matched the champions for the majority of the game and if that doesn’t give the players the confidence that they belong in the Premier Division and can compete against the best, I don’t know what will.

I said in a season preview that it might take several games before we see the best of City.

In truth, I didn’t expect them to be performing so well this early in the season. After the Bohemians performance, particularly the first-half display, I did fear the step-up for some of the City players was going to be too much.

However, they are continuing to improve each game, they were better against Derry City, excellent against UCD, and despite only drawing the match, I would consider their performance against Rovers as their best this season because of the opposition they were against.

What do I put City’s performance down to? Perhaps the biggest difference is the change in formation.

Players look more comfortable playing in a 4-3-3, particularly Ruairi Keating who is flourishing as a lone striker.

I stupidly suggested that he should be rested against Rovers to bring more pace into the side. I thought Keating would lack support and it would be a tough evening for him.

However credit to his teammates and Keating because they were quick to support him in and out of possession, and the former Galway United striker’s hold-up play and ability to bring others into the game was exceptional.

I know Darragh Crowley’s goal will be the goal everyone remembers but as a former striker, I probably admired Keating’s more.

His movement was excellent to get across the Rovers’ defender at the front post, and he made the finish look so easy when it was from that.

He is definitely a leader. I feel he enjoys playing up front by himself because he only needs to focus on his own game.


He doesn’t have to be overly concerned about what runs he makes. All his movement now is natural.

Having a strike partner means he has to be wary that he isn’t making the same runs as his teammate and also he has to do more defending, meaning he wastes energy at times that could affect him in front of goal.

Playing as a lone striker, you don’t have to drop into midfield out of possession, meaning you conserve your energy for those important moments such as Keating did on Monday night.

This will be a difficult game for City. Sligo have a lot of quality but also a togetherness.

Being reduced to 10 men for over 70 minutes against St Patrick’s Athletic, it would have been easy for the players to use that as an excuse to have ‘sacked in’ a horrible Monday night game because believe me, players do not like Monday games after playing three days earlier.

It’s actually a pity for City that this game is not Friday because of the effort the 10 men of Sligo put in against St Pat’s.

Cork City manager Colin Healy.  Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
Cork City manager Colin Healy. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

They would have had tired legs from that match but the extra day recovery will greatly benefit them.

To get a victory from the game, City just have to keep doing what they have been doing. They need to be aggressive in games and be on the front foot from the first whistle against Sligo.

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