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'It's fantastic for us — the club was dead eight years ago, we're in the Champions League now'

John Caulfield looks ahead to Cork City’s second-leg clash with Legia Warsaw this evening in Poland.

– Paul Dollery reports from Warsaw

CORK CITY WILL need to withstand an early onslaught if they’re to have any chance of advancing to the second qualifying round of the Champions League this evening.

That’s the view of City manager John Caulfield, who expects Legia Warsaw to go in search of a killer blow in the opening stages of the second leg at the Polish Army Stadium [8pm].

John Caulfield Cork City manager John Caulfield issues instructions during their first leg against Legia Warsaw. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Following last week’s 1-0 win in the first leg at Turner’s Cross, a goal at home for the Polish champions would leave the Leesiders with a mountain to climb if they’re to remain in with a chance of progressing to a meeting with Spartak Trnava (Slovakia) or HŠK Zrinjski Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina).

Caulfield also highlighted the significance of the occasion for Cork City, who are representing Ireland in Europe’s premier club competition having been forced to start from scratch as a supporter-owned club early in 2011 on the back of financial trouble.

“We’re aware of the attacking threats that Legia have so we need to defend very well. But we’ve done work ourselves and we feel we may cause them some problems, so we’ve slightly changed things around.

“We saw the Polish Super Cup on Saturday night,” said Caulfield, referencing Legia’s 3-2 defeat to Arka Gdynia. “Legia played really well, scored, had lots of chances but they also conceded goals.

“We’ve looked at different options but from our point of view we know that they’ll try to win the tie early. They’ll come out very quick off the blocks and we’ll need to defend well. But we’re looking forward to the tie.

“It’s fantastic for us — the club was dead eight years ago, we’re in the Champions League now. In Warsaw, playing a Champions League game, it’s fantastic for us.”

Failure to overcome Legia Warsaw in this tie won’t see Cork City eliminated from European competition entirely. The consolation for the losers will be a place in the third qualifying round of the Europa League, although Caulfield insists that hasn’t impacted their outlook.

Graham Cummins reacts to a missed chance Cork City's Graham Cummins reacts to a missed chance in the first leg. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We’ve thought about nothing other than this match,” he said. “You always want to show your best hand. You’re representing not only your own club but your country as well. It is a bonus this year that at some point you’ll go into the Europa League, but we’ve never mentioned it.

“Is the pressure on or off? I feel that we gave everything in the first game to win. While it’ll be very difficult, we’ll give everything again. They’re a fantastic bunch of guys, our supporters know how good they are and what they’ve done for this club over the last couple of seasons, so I just want to make sure that the boys do what they can and leave everything on the pitch.”

City squandered several chances in the first leg. Should they prove to be more productive in front of goal this evening, Caulfield hopes that it can give his side a chance of causing an upset.

He said: “We know how difficult it is but, at the same time, the brilliance of sport is that, even though you’re underdogs, you must be prepared to go into any game, like we did last Tuesday, when we had an opportunity to win it which we didn’t take.

“While we know it’ll be difficult, we must believe that we will make chances and we believe we will. We have to defend for our lives and make sure we keep a clean sheet because we will be under pressure with the fact that they will have a lot of possession.

“We know it’ll be difficult but that’s what sport is about: trying to create that shock, and that’s why we’re looking forward to the match.”

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Paul Dollery

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