Rebel Rebel

Airtricity League: McNulty anxious to restore Cork's fortress

Cork City keeper Mark McNulty is raring to get back on the pitch after the Airtricity League’s mid-season break.

MARK MCNULTY HOPES that Cork City can restore Turner’s Cross to the fortress of old when they resume their Airtricity League campaign against Derry City.

Cork’s home performances this season have been something of a mixed bag with two wins, two draws and two defeats from six games, but history is on their side tonight. Derry last came away from Leeside with a league win 12 seasons ago, though they did take home the silverware when the two sides met on Cork’s patch for the the EA Sports Cup final last season.

The Rebels come into the game as the Premier Division’s form team, unbeaten in their last eight after a sluggish start to the season. From that perspective, the mid-season break couldn’t have come at a worse time, McNulty said.

“Everything was going well. We were all in top form, we were all flying and then the break came,” the keeper told

It was disappointing then with Monaghan going and for us to lose the six goals we got against them and the three points we got against them. It all came at a bad time for us but we’ve to get the heads down and start pushing on now.

Cork’s transformation was most evident in their final outing before the Euro 2012 hiatus, a battling 1-1 draw against champions Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght. Dead and buried when Rovers took a late lead through Gary Twigg with five minutes to play, Cork flooded forward and got their reward when John Dunleavy equalised with a stunning header two minutes from time.

At the start of the season, that late rally simply wouldn’t have happened, McNulty admitted.

“To concede with five minutes to go, if that had been in the first six games, it would’ve finished 1-0. But you can see that we still wanted to get back into the game with five minutes to go and get a draw up there against Shamrock Rovers.

In the first six games, you could see players’ heads were down when we conceded. A lot of the players in the team are young players and when we were in the First Division last year, we only lost one game so players weren’t used to losing and reacting to going one down or two down. Everyone on the team has settled in now and knows the story, that we need to just keep playing our game and doing what we’re doing and we’ll get back into it.

After salvaging their unbeaten run in Tallaght three weeks ago, extending it is McNulty’s priority now. Results have bred confidence among Tommy Dunne’s men and though they’re still third from bottom, the six-point gap between themselves and the European places seems very achievable for a team flying high.

“We said the same thing last year, that if we wanted to get anything out of the season we’d have to win most games from the break to the end of the season. That’s the exact same way we’re looking at it now. We did it last year so why can’t we do it again?

You take the game as it comes but at the same time you still want to keep that run going. Last year we only lost one game out of 30-odd and at the end of the season we were disgusted not to go the whole season unbeaten. If we can go and get nine, ten, 11 games unbeaten, it gives great confidence to the squad and to the team. You go into games thinking ‘We’re not going to lose this game.’

Getting a result tonight becomes even more important not only in light of Derry’s 12-season hoodoo at the Cross but also to make amends for the sides’ last meeting at the Brandywell, a disappointing Cork performance which ended in some silly mistakes and a 2-0 defeat.

The form book may slightly tilt the scales in the hosts’ favour tonight but McNulty is under no illusions and knows that Turner’s Cross will have to be at its impregnable best if they are to keep moving on up.

“Every time you play Derry, you know what you’re going to get. They’re a strong team but they play ball. Every time I see them, I think they’re one of the best footballing teams in the country. Up in the Brandywell, it was the same — they just kept playing ball, playing ball, broke us down and got their goals.”

We want to make Turner’s Cross a fortress again compared to the start of the season when we were letting in sloppy goals. You see any team that’s come down here recently knows that it’s a hard place to get out of with a result and that’s the way we want it to be.

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