For Cork City fans and club members, the less said about last season the better. But in looking at the past season, one would hope things can only improve. With many outgoings since the close of the season, there will be massive changes on the pitch, and with Neale Fenn beginning his first full campaign in charge, it promises to be exciting.
Going way back in time to the beginning of the 2019 season, a first loss on the opening night away to St. Pats was disappointing, but fans were sure it was just one poor defeat. Then to return to Cork and go down 2-0 to Waterford in Turners Cross made everyone wonder what direction they were going. The lack of fight and passion on the pitch was worrying, but people remained positive. Unfortunately for Cork City fans, matters on and off the pitch did not improve. After several puzzling performances and results, John Caulfield left the club, with assistant manager John Cotter stepping up to the head coach role. Cotters reign started well with a 1-0 victory in Dalymount, but the campaign sunk to a new low when City crashed out of Europe after losing 3-2 on aggregate to Luxembourgian side, Progres Niederkorn. Cotters departure in August following Neale Fenn’s appointment began a new spell for the club with Caulfield and Cotter having been involved in the club since the 2014 season. Fenn kept City in the top division with wins against UCD and Dundalk but closed the season with a 3-0 defeat to Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght.
Now, 2020 season. It is very hard to know what the future holds for Cork City having lost many of their key players over the winter break. After McNulty had a poor run of form between the sticks, Tadhg Ryan stepped up to the mark and put in some incredible performances. That good form caught the eyes of other clubs, and Ryan departed for Waterford in December. City acquired the signing of former Anderlecht and Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Liam Bossin at the end of 2019. Dan Casey and Conor McCarthy were arguably City’s best players last season, and with Casey returning to Bohemians and McCarthy making the move to St. Mirren, it spells uncertainty for the City back line. Shane Griffin also made his way to Dublin to sign for St. Patricks Athletic. Rob Slevin and Charlie Fleming have both signed for the Rebel Army, and Alan Bennett has re-signed as a player/coach. Ronan Hurley and Josh Honohan also remain in the squad for the season, but more bolstering is surely needed. Over the last few years, City’s midfield line-up has been crucial to their success and consistency. Gearoid Morrissey, Conor McCormack and Gary Buckley made up the solid centre field partnership over the past few years, and with the departure of Buckley to Sligo and McCormack to Derry City, the midfield is also lacking firepower. Alec Byrne was given his chance in centre midfield towards the end of last season and he grabbed it with both hands, impressing management and fans alike. Cory Galvin also joined City from the local rivals Waterford, along with Cian Coleman from St. Pats. If you looked at the team sheet for last season, with the plethora of strikers in the squad one would expect goals galore. it was in fact the opposite of this, and nothing demonstrates that more than City’s top scorer being Conor McCarthy, the centre back. some of the strikers involved at the beginning of last season included Dan Smith, Matt Gillam, Darragh Rainsford and Liam Nash, who left the club after a reported run in with club staff. James Tilley also returned to his parent club Brighton after a six month loan on Leeside. Daire O Connor moved to Cork from UCD at the beginning of last season. O Connor showed great potential and determination, and personally I feel he could be the key to City’s attack over the coming months. Beneoin O Brien-Whitmarsh was granted the opportunity to show what he could do last year, and his speed and finishing will make him a valuable asset for City this season. Conor Davis made the move to the Rebel County from Derry in January, along with Dylan McGlade from Blyth Spartans. A prolific goalscorer is one thing city are currently lacking. In seasons gone by, Sean Maguire and Kieran Sadlier were on hand to score 20+ goals per campaign. After losing Karl Sheppard and Graham Cummins, this opens up the path for the likes of Davis, O Brien-Whitmarsh or the possibility of another incoming striker to make a huge difference.
It will be very interesting to follow Cork City’s progress this season as they face into the 2020 campaign with a young squad. Without some of the key players who enjoyed great success at ‘The Cross’, it won’t be easy, but with Neale Fenn at the helm, I have full faith in him to bring Cork City FC back to the heights once enjoyed by the CCFC family.