‘We know you don’t believe us, we know you don’t believe us,’ the Cork City shed sang last Friday night ‘we’re gonna win the league, we’re gonna win the league.’ These same fans sang this song at the start of the season and nobody could have possibly believed them. Even up to a few days ago very few could have foreseen Cork City in the lead with Dundalk needing to beat them, in Dundalk, on the last day of the season. It’s incredible stuff really.
A season high of 6,200 people turned up last Friday in stormy conditions at Turners Cross to watch City iron out a 1-0 win over Bohemians, a win that puts them top with just one game to go in John Caulfield’s first season in charge. If Caulfield does indeed lead City to the title, it will be an unprecedented feat, in terms of Cork City managers at least.
What is not unprecedented however, despite all of the excitement, is the last day of the season conundrum. In fact, for Cork City fans at least, there is something very familiar about the whole thing. Here are some similarities with recent seasons:
1.The Pat Fenlon Influence
In 2005 Cork City lost a clear lead at the top of the table in the run up to the final match by drawing with Pat Fenlon’s Shelbourne in the second last game. This draw meant City had to win on the last day.
This year again Pat Fenlon’s team (this time Shamrock Rovers) have helped knock leaders Dundalk off the top of the table in the last few games meaning Dundalk need to win the last game.
2. Stephen Kenny
In 2005 Stephen Kenny was manager of a Derry side that just needed a draw against Cork City at Turners Cross to win the league. On that occasion Kenny expressed some frustration that his side had to go to Cork twice, whereas Cork only needed to play in Derry once. Cork won 2-0 and the league title stayed in Turners Cross.
On this occasion Stephen Kenny is again the manager of Cork City’s rivals (Dundalk) for the league title on the last day of the season. On this occasion however it is his side that are at home on the final day and it is his side that need to win. Kenny may feel that the ‘wheel has turned’ somewhat as Dundalk have only had to visit Cork once this season with Cork making their second league visit to Dundalk this Friday.
3.Away Team points advantage
In 2005 the home team needed to win to take the title. The same is true next Friday.
4. 1990/91 – Cork City -V Dundalk
Then there is the 1990/91 season which again had everything up for grabs on the last day of the season. Cork City only needed to draw against Dundalk in Turners Cross and the title was theirs. As John Caulfield was on the Cork City side that day that lost to Dundalk by a single goal, allowing Dundalk to take the title ,one feels he will not need to look very far to find motivation for his team-talk this Friday.
But despite all of the history and despite City’s higher points tally it is Dundalk’s home advantage, on an artificial surface, that arguably swings the favourites tag in their favour. City have been soundly thumped on every occasion that they have visited Oriel Park over the last few years. But nothing is certain. End of season matches can throw all form and pattern out the window. But one can be sure to expect some serious tension and drama. And who knows the City ‘Shed End’ might have been right all along.
Note: For a taste of ‘last day of the season tension’, click on ‘Older Posts’ below to see my previous two blogs which diary the last days of the 2005 season from inside the Cork City camp.