McNulty likely to miss Champions League opener as injuries mount for Cork City

The veteran goalkeeper hobbled off with an ankle injury in last night’s draw with Shamrock Rovers.

Mark McNulty Cork City goalkeeper Mark McNulty. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

CORK CITY BOSS John Caulfield has been dealt a significant injury blow as his team prepare to welcome Legia Warsaw to Turner’s Cross for their Champions League tie.

Veteran goalkeeper Mark McNulty looks set to be ruled out for the visit of the Polish champions for the first leg of their first round qualifier on Tuesday. Having twisted his ankle, McNulty hobbled off in the closing stages of last night’s goalless draw against Shamrock Rovers in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.

Caulfield was unable to provide a definitive update on McNulty’s availability in the immediate aftermath of the game, but he admitted that the outlook isn’t promising for the 37-year-old. Although he played the full 90 minutes after being bandaged up, there may also be question marks over the involvement of midfielder Garry Buckley, who clashed with an opponent while challenging for a header.

Should McNulty be unavailable, Peter Cherrie will deputise for Caulfield’s side. Cherrie has been providing back-up to McNulty since his January move from Bray Wanderers. The 34-year-old Scot, who won a Premier Division medal with Dundalk in 2014, started for City in last Monday’s 4-1 defeat to Portsmouth in a friendly.

“Everything is very tricky at the moment,” said Caulfield, whose side now trail Dundalk by four points in the title race after they failed to win at home for the first time this season. “Looking at the way he [McNulty] is, it’s probably against him. But we’ll assess it over the next three days.

“Garry Buckley got a number of stitches in his head as well so I think both of them are going to be under pressure. But at the same time, we have a lot of guys coming in off the bench who want to play. Peter Cherrie is a very experienced keeper. We’re probably fortunate that he got 80 minutes against Portsmouth the other night. At least from that point of view we have a guy who’s well capable of stepping in.”

Garry Buckley receives treatment Garry Buckley receiving treatment for a head wound. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

McNulty has been a key component in Cork City’s recent successes. By the time the Leesiders wrapped up the Premier Division title last October, he had started in 147 consecutive league games for the club, a run which stretched back to June 2013. Weeks later, he made a crucial save from Michael Duffy in a penalty shootout at the Aviva Stadium as City retained the FAI Cup at Dundalk’s expense.

Missing out on an occasion of Tuesday’s magnitude would be a cruel blow for the Ballincollig native. He was involved in Cork City’s last Champions League campaign back in 2006 but didn’t play due to Michael Devine’s status as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper.

Caulfield said: “Nults doesn’t miss any games so it’s unfortunate for him. But at the same time from our point of view, the most important thing is to get him back fit, get him right, and if on Tuesday night he’s not ready, it’s a brilliant opportunity for Peter.

“Peter is an experienced keeper, he’s won a league, and he’s been playing in our league for a number of years. To have a guy like him to go in, you’d have to be happy with that. But of course it’ll be disappointing for Mark, as it will be for anyone who misses out.”

Colm Horgan definitely won’t feature against Legia Warsaw. The right-back, who had been on a run of 15 consecutive league starts, watched last night’s game from the stands with his leg in a brace after sustaining an injury in last weekend’s defeat to Dundalk.

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Peter Cherrie Peter Cherrie could start for Cork City against Legia Warsaw. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“Colm is going in for another x-ray on Monday,” Caulfield explained. “We’ll assess the situation. Some people are saying maybe three weeks. He’ll certainly miss the European campaign. He’s damaged his calf muscle so you just have to wait and see how long he’ll be out for.”

Caulfield expressed his disappointment at having to settle for a share of the spoils against Shamrock Rovers, despite being in control of the game from the outset. Sixteen-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu was the hero for the visitors, making a brilliant second-half save to keep out Kieran Sadlier’s effort from the penalty spot.

“We know from our home games that a lot of teams come down to sit in,” the Cork City boss said. “Rovers had a very tight gameplan. From our side it looked like they were coming for a point or hitting us on the counter attack. It was up to us to score and create chances.

“We had a number of chances, it was a tight game, but at the same time — in fairness to the young lad and in fairness to Stephen Bradley for keeping faith with him — the keeper made a very good save in the first half from Graham [Cummins]. We were disappointed with a couple of other opportunities that we didn’t hit the target.”

He added: “Kieran [Sadlier] has been fantastic at the spotters for us but the keeper made a very good save. Then a number of minutes later he made a fantastic save from Karl [Sheppard]. The onus was on us to score a goal and unfortunately tonight we didn’t. We’re disappointed about that.”

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