'Six games gone, full house in Cork... it's a special time in the club's history'

Cork City versus Dundalk attracted huge interest on Leeside but many had to settle for the TV broadcast.

LEAGUE OF IRELAND grounds aren’t noted for attracting ticket touts and Turner’s Cross was no exception on Saturday afternoon for the meeting of Cork City and Dundalk.

Had the touts been proactive, however, there was money to be made along Curragh Road as kick-off approached between the current SSE Airtricity League Premier Division leaders and the four-in-a-row-chasing champions.

Fans make their way into Turners Cross Supporters entering Turner's Cross from Curragh Road before Saturday's game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The turnstiles were busy well over an hour before the game started, with some locals eventually forced to retreat to bars and sitting rooms to see Cork City’s 2-1 victory live on RTÉ 2. The official attendance was 6,746 but it would have been even greater if the stadium’s capacity allowed for it.

You could count on one hand the number of times per season when a game is described as “a great advertisement for the league” but this was as good as it gets for domestic football in Ireland.

Two of the SSE Airtricity League’s best teams in recent memory, an intense rivalry, plenty of talented individuals, a sell-out crowd at one of the league’s best stadiums and a competitive contest carried live by the national broadcaster. The southern sunshine added a coat of polish.

It was the type of occasion which made you wonder why any football fan wouldn’t want to be involved. For those in attendance, few are likely to be reluctant to return.

“Big game, full house. I keep saying, in this league if we could only get it, from the top, promoted all the time. Six games gone, full house in Cork, 7,000 people for a game that’s live on TV; it shows you that the interest and the passion is there for this league,” Cork City manager John Caulfield said afterwards.

For Caulfield’s side, it’s a case of so far, so good. Six games, six wins and a six-point lead at the top of the table. But in their bid to end a 12-year wait for a Premier Division title, the FAI Cup holders know that there’s still plenty of time for those plans to be thrown off course.

Sean Maguire and Brian Gartland Dundalk's Brian Gartland under pressure from Cork City's Sean Maguire. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Throughout the season you get periods when you’ll go through a difficult patch. Probably in a lot of years we’ve been playing catch-up and this year what we’re trying to do is stay in there, because when the crucial run-in comes, you need to be there or thereabouts,” Caulfield said.

“At the moment the league hasn’t even started, but for us the pleasing thing is that we had a full house. It helps because it gives the club more revenue, it creates more atmosphere around the city and it also puts pressure on the team.

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“But you want your top players playing in situations like that. You need to take that responsibility because some players shy away.

“Thankfully we’re building a squad of players since the [FAI] Cup final who want to take the responsibility and want to play in front of big crowds. Hopefully that might keep the momentum going and that the crowds at home here will be huge.”

He added: “From a Cork point of view, what I’m hoping is that the people keep coming. That crowd and the atmosphere lifts the lads. It’s like our 12th man. While it’s a full house against Dundalk, I’m hoping that for the rest of our home games — we have Derry in a couple of weeks — that we will have that following because I think it’s a special time in the club’s history.

“We have ups and downs, but we need everyone coming out and supporting the team. I think this is a special team as well. That’s why I’m asking the fans to buy in right from the start of the season, which they’ve done.”

Karl Sheppard celebrates scoring his sides second goal Cork City's Karl Sheppard celebrates after scoring the second of his two goals. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

As the only Premier Division club representing the country’s second city and largest county, Cork City are in a relatively unique position in the League of Ireland when it comes to the size of their target market.

City also benefit from significant support from Tipperary and Kerry, as evidenced by the involvement of kids from Mid & East Kerry United in Saturday’s half-time game. There’s daily media coverage of the club too from the likes of RedFM and the Evening Echo.

In comparison to other clubs, it’s not difficult for Cork City supporters to justify a trip to a comfortable stadium to watch a successful team.

Saturday should have a domino effect for the Premier Division table-toppers, but as the summer approaches, the hope is that such occasions can impact positively on the rest of the league too.

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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