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'He's probably the most talented player in the league because his skill levels are incredible'

Cork City manager John Caulfield wants to see Kieran Sadlier produce his top form week in, week out.

Sadlier celebrating his goal yesterday with team-mate Steven Beattie.
Sadlier celebrating his goal yesterday with team-mate Steven Beattie.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

KIERAN SADLIER WAS instrumental for Cork City as they turned the President’s Cup on its head yesterday.

Trailing Dundalk 2-0 at half-time, the double winners hit back with four unanswered goals at Oriel Park to win the annual event for a third consecutive year.

Sadlier, playing on the left-side of attack in a 4-2-3-1, had a major hand in the comeback — crossing for Barry McNamee and Graham Cummins to score either side of a wonder-strike from 30 yards.

The former West Ham youth player joined City from Sligo Rovers last July, and showed flashes of his ability as the Leesiders claimed the Premier Division title. It was also Sadlier’s penalty that wrapped up the FAI Cup at Lansdowne Road in November.

Having settled into his new surroundings and with a full pre-season under his belt, the 23-year-old has been tipped to become one the SSE Airtricity League’s biggest stars this year.

Cork boss John Caulfield is in no doubt about the talent Sadlier possesses, but he has called on the former Ireland U21 international to produce the goods on a more regular basis.

“He’s come down to Cork halfway into the season and saw what being at a club like ours was like,” Caulfield said yesterday.

“There is a lot of pressure on you and you take a bit of stick if you don’t perform. The guy has phenomenal talent, he is probably the most talented player in the league because his skill levels are incredible.

He has to perform week in, week out and if he does he will be a brilliant player to watch and the supporters will be excited by him.

“What he did with the cross for the [Graham] Cummins goal and his own strike, he has bundles of that but you have to perform if you have any chance of winning.

“That is the test of being a good player and being a good team. The lads last season did it and that’s the challenge for the lads this season. Sadlier will be a joy to watch if he can deliver performances like that every week.”

Kristjan Adorjan and Kieran Sadlier Sadlier and Dundalk's Kristjan Adorjan during the President's Cup. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Caulfield started five new signings — Peter Cherrie, Colm Horgan, Aaron Barry, Barry McNamee and Graham Cummins — in yesterday’s game, while fellow recent arrival Tob Adebayo-Rowling was introduced late on.

“Peter started in goal and probably feels he was isolated for both goals,” he said. “He made a good save down to his left and he’s an experienced goalkeeper. Aaron has come in and he’s a man — knows our league and was rock solid with Ryan McBride [at Derry].

“He is now beside [Alan] Bennett, who is a similar guy to Ryan. He did well. Colm had a difficult first half but then again it was tough with those conditions.”

30-year-old Cummins has returned for a second spell with his hometown club, having played for Cork between 2010 and 2012. He striker has big boots to fill as Sean Maguire scored 20 goals in 21 league appearances and did enough to be named PFAI Player of the Year before joining Preston North End in the summer.

And Caulfield accepts that there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to his new striker.

“Cummins has come in and is probably not used to the work rate that needs to be done here [compared to] St Johnstone,” he said. “I keep saying it but I think they underestimate our league, the top teams over here would be well able to hold their own in some of the divisions in the UK and in Scotland.

He needs to know that he needs to work extremely hard and when he did that in the second half he caused a lot of problems. Ultimately, he could have scored a header, but got a great finish from the Sadlier cross. He’s here to score goals and if he does that he has a chance and if he doesn’t, he won’t.”

Can he scored 15-20 goals this season?

“I don’t know,” Caulfield replied. “I see him as a guy who comes in and started to work hard. He needs to up his intensity and found the first half a bit of culture shock but got his head down in the second half and started to do well. He believes he will score goals and I believe he will if he works hard.”

Stephen Folan and Graham Cummins Cummins was on target against Dundalk. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The defending champions are in Richmond Park for their Premier Division opener this Friday night. St Patrick’s Athletic managed a 12-0 win over US side Sure Sport FC and Caulfield joked:

“St Pat’s have had a fantastic pre-season. They scored 12 goals on Friday. We played that team the other week and scored four, and conceded. You’re beginning to wonder what’s going on!

“They’ve had good results and changed a bit. Last year, Liam [Buckley] was saying he was rebuilding. He brought in new players for the second half of the season and they have settled in. This year, every team has improved their team. Some clubs are probably struggling a bit financially, but most have improved and Pat’s are one of them.

“From our point of view, I think Pat’s will look forward to being at home against us and if we start like the first 45 minute here, we’ll be in trouble. If we play like we did in the second half then we have a chance and that’s the way we look at it.”

Cork and Dundalk have claimed the top two spots for each of the last four years and it is likely to be the same again in 2018, although Caulfield name-checked a couple of other clubs who he feels could potentially have a say in the title race.

I think there will be more [than two],” he said. “Shamrock Rovers are seriously in the mix. They have most of last year’s team and built on it. Derry, going back to the Brandywell… depending on how soon they get back in.

“They’ve brought in more experience than they would have had and Sligo are doing a lot of talking with the signings they have made with a top goalscorer. If that guy can get them 15, 16 or 17 goals, well, you would imagine they could be in the mix.

“You have to see how Waterford settle down as well but I don’t think it will be two teams like it was the last couple of years.”

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