Cork City's stand-in captain Greg Bolger. Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO
walking wounded

'He's playing on half an ankle but that just shows you the type of man he is'

Greg Bolger continues to endear himself to Cork City supporters as he leads their European charge.

CORK CITY CAPTAIN Greg Bolger is likely to be available again for the next stage of their European adventure, but manager John Caulfield has reiterated that the inspirational midfielder is nowhere near full fitness.

Bolger sustained an ankle injury in the first leg of City’s Europa League first-round qualifier away to Linfield on 30 June — a ligament problem that Bolger revealed could take up to four weeks to heal.

The 27-year-old was subsequently left out for the return fixture against the Belfast side seven days later, as well as City’s Premier Division victory against Wexford Youths. However, the former UCD and Dundalk man returned to play in all 180 minutes of the Leesiders’ triumph over BK Hacken in the second round of the Europa League qualifiers.

After last Thursday’s 1-0 second-leg defeat of the Swedish Cup holders at Turner’s Cross, City manager John Caulfield paid tribute to Bolger, who’s been playing through the pain barrier as the 2015 Premier Division and FAI Cup runners-up aim to prolong their European campaign.

“Well, Greg is injured. But that’s who he is,” Caulfield said. “He wants to play and he hasn’t trained since the game last week. He’s been in treatment all week, treatment again this morning, treatment before the match and he’s literally playing on half an ankle.

“But that just shows you the type of man he is. You can’t beat that and that rubs off on the team. That rubs off with the courage, the spirit and determination.”

Bolger has been a revelation for Caulfield, who brought him in from St Patrick’s Athletic for the beginning of this season. That will come as no surprise to regulars at Richmond Park, who would have been deeply disappointed to see the Wexford native leave Inchicore after a four-year spell during which he won every major domestic honour.

Greg Bolger and Tomasz Jodlowiec Bolger playing for Pat's against Legia Warsaw in the Champions League qualifiers in 2014. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Cork City supporters are notoriously stubborn when it comes to being won over by new arrivals — particularly those who weren’t blessed to have been born in the Rebel County — but Bolger immediately set about becoming a fan-favourite.

A well-rounded midfielder, Bolger blends his combative approach when not in possession with accomplished control and passing ability, which allows him to be extremely comfortable on the ball. Therefore, in spite of his injury, his contribution is likely to be crucial when City make the step-up to play KRC Genk in Belgium on Thursday.

It’s a sign of how highly he has already come to be regarded in Cork that Bolger — the SSE Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month for June — has been handed the captain’s armband in the absence of injured skipper Johnny Dunleavy.

Speaking to the media yesterday ahead of this week’s clash with Genk in the Europa League third qualifying round, Caulfield explained that Bolger is still receiving treatment, although he’s fully expected to lead Cork City into action at the Luminus Arena on Thursday evening (7pm kick-off Irish time, live on eir Sport 1).

Greg Bolger takes to the field Cork City have turned to Bolger as captain while Johnny Dunleavy recovers from injury. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Bolger’s insistence on playing is certainly admirable, although it remains to be seen if there will be long-term consequences — for the player’s physical well-being and his team’s aspirations of denying Dundalk a third consecutive league title. But should City bring a positive result back from Belgium, he may feel it’s a sacrifice worth making.

“He’s a massive player for us, a huge influence on the team, he’s now the captain since Johnny got injured. He’s taken to the role like a fish to water. Massive presence,” Caulfield said.

“He’s being treated every day. He possibly needs a couple of weeks’ break but that isn’t possible. We’re doing everything to have him ready for Thursday night and he wants to be ready for Thursday night. That’s the way it is at the moment.”

Live TV coverage confirmed for both legs of Cork City’s Europa League tie against KRC Genk

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