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'Our character was questioned but I never doubted these guys'

John Caulfield was full of praise for his Cork City side after they edged closer to the Premier Division crown.

CORK CITY MANAGER John Caulfield hailed the character of his players after they moved another step closer to securing the club’s first Premier Division title in 12 years.

Despite dominating last night’s game against relegation-threatened Finn Harps in Ballybofey, City were forced to wait until the 70th minute to make the breakthrough.

John Caulfield Cork City manager John Caulfield at Finn Park last night. Source: John McVitty/INPHO

After Ryan Delaney’s header struck the post, Garry Buckley pounced to score from the rebound in spite of the efforts of Ciaran Gallagher, who produced a man-of-the-match display for Harps.

“It was a fantastic performance,” Caulfield said afterwards. “We passed the ball brilliantly. Gallagher made a few good saves. We just couldn’t get the goal. In the end it was a scrappy goal but certainly we created quite a few chances.

“I suppose to be fair to Harps, they dug in and fought for their lives. We defended really well and they didn’t really have any chances. Ultimately we would have liked to score one or two more but the most important thing for us was to get the three points.”

Having bounced back from suffering just their second league defeat of the season over the weekend, City now require only five more points from their seven remaining games in order to be crowned champions.

The performances of Caulfield’s side have received some criticism in recent weeks, after losing three times in their six outings prior to last night’s win in Donegal. Bohemians ended their undefeated domestic run in the league, Shamrock Rovers knocked them out of the EA Sports Cup and Sligo Rovers were victorious at Turner’s Cross on Friday.

Caulfield’s team, who lost top goalscorer Sean Maguire and left-back Kevin O’Connor to Preston North End last month, had scored just twice in five games ahead of the victory over Finn Harps. Versatile defender and club captain Johnny Dunleavy was also ruled out for the remainder of the season after injuring his knee in June.

Garry Buckley celebrates scoring their first goal Garry Buckley celebrates after scoring the winner for Cork City against Finn Harps. Source: John McVitty/INPHO

“Maybe the other night some people might have doubted us with the game,” Caulfield said. “There’s been a spin put on it that we’re not doing well and we’re not creating chances. Certainly we’re not scoring but we are creating chances and you could see that tonight.

“But at the same time, when we beat Dundalk at Oriel Park at the start of June we were 18 points clear. We’re 17 points clear after tonight, so despite the fact that there’s been doom and gloom for the last month, we’ve only dropped one point in two months, which shows how great these guys are.”

He added: “Our character was questioned but I never doubted and the management never doubted these guys. They’re fantastic guys. We said before the match, after Friday night’s game, that we’d get back to basics and we worked hard, controlled the game and passed it brilliantly. While we only got one goal, we’re very happy with the three points.”

As they resume their defence of the FAI Cup, Cork City will aim to book a quarter-final place on Friday night when they welcome First Division strugglers Athlone Town to Turner’s Cross. The Leesiders will then travel to Tallaght Stadium for a Premier Division clash with Shamrock Rovers seven days later.

Caulfield said: “At the end of the day, people questioned about Maguire going and O’Connor going. Dunleavy, our captain, is gone as well. We’ve lost three starting 11 players. No other team would survive that and we just put our heads and kept driving on. It just shows the character of these guys.

“I think that probably it will click one of these days and we’ll get a few more goals. In the last couple of weeks we haven’t, but the most important thing was getting the three points and we’ll move on to our next league game, which is Rovers in two weeks.”

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Paul Dollery

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