Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Put a Cork in it

Often entertaining but this time just plain boring, mainly due to the lack of quality in his procrastinative efforts. It was more of the same from Dr. Damo -A Doctor of Words - 'my players are in there saying you can't get a penalty in Dublin'.

Given time for measured reflection I am sure that Damo accepts that in this case the officials were spot on. But there have been too many excuses from the Cork City camp this season; the visible panty line is that the Leesiders have fallen behind.

Many claim that the league winning side of two season's ago was Pat Dolan's legacy to Cork City; Damian Richardson came in, picked up the reins and waved as his new charges charged to the summit. 2003, '04 and '05 saw City finish 3rd, 2nd and 1st respectively. Last season they slumped to fourth, a lack of firepower ultimately proving to be their John O'Flynn's heel as their impervious back five supported the weight of a title challenge.

Already deprived of the talents of Kevin Doyle and later the perplexing gifts of George O'Callaghan, the rot was setting in for Cork City. Dan Murray was becoming an increasingly important source of goals; his five in 2006 almost matching the efforts of Denis Behan and the somewhat delicate O'Flynn both of whom managed just six in the league. The late discovery that Roy O'Donovan could actually get you a goal or two if played down the centre boosted hopes for this season.

The boss spoke of financial constraints, as did chairman Brian Lennox. Danny Murphy took his ringcraft to Motherwell at the end of the season. The protracted deal for Alan Bennett was finally concluded and some much needed folding was in the coffers. The FIFA 2 saga was an unforeseen blow to hopes of success.

But it wasn't in midfield were Richardson's side were lacking. The defence which had conceded just 33 times in 63 outings spread across the previous two seasons was coming apart. Pickled observers espoused the theory that SuperDan would be exposed without Alan Bennett scurrying around his ankles. It seems they were right. Far from watertight, they are now conceding at the rate of a goal per game; or in old money, 20 goals in 20 games.

None better than the mighty Paul Osam will tell you that if you are conceding a goal per game you will need two goals to win in this league. Obviously, he may not have shared this nugget with Damo. When one takes cognisance of the in- tray of both UCD and Galway United - bottom buddies both with 22 in the goals against column from 21 outings - it puts Cork's defensive demise in perspective.

Dan Murray's visceral forward charges have all but evaporated; a sure sign of a lack of confidence in the housesitters. Thus a necessary source of goals has dried up, his number but one this term.

This leads us to the talents of Roy O'Donovan; 14 goals in 17 starts is a phenomenal strike rate and he two-leggedly kept his side ticking over while they waited for July 1st to arrive. Those goals are no more; though the club are pocketing another 1/2 million or so.

A scan through the goalscorers column at the cross reveals the source of Damo's frustration - at the minute Cork City need every penalty they can get - whether there has been a foul committed or no. His striking options centre on the out of sorts John O'Flynn a player whose persistent injury problems are preventing him from reaching the higher notes of his undoubted talent. He has managed a paltry two goals so far, and is second only to the memory of O'Donovan in the scoring chart. The jury is out on newcomer Leon McSweeney; he has at least broken his duck. Denis Behan remains confined largely to cameos; surely a suggestion that the boss doesn't feel that the Limerick man can provide the requisite goals.

In fact, Damian Richardson has presided over the dismantling of his title winning squad and has not adequately filled the vacuum therein. Youngsters at the club are either not ready or not good enough - their time will come if they are. But for all his procrastinating and pontificating el Rico has got to improve the level of talent within his playing staff if they are to challenge for title honours again. The fact that they are still in with a shout for second spot reflects poorly on St. Pats more so than it does positively on the achievements of the Rebels.

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