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Cork boss Caulfield: Artificial pitches give Derry and Dundalk an advantage

The Leesiders will make their first visit to the redeveloped Brandywell to face the Candystripes on Friday.

Waterford FC v Cork City - SSE Airtricity League Premier Division Cork City manager John Caulfield. Source: Matt Browne

DERRY CITY AND Dundalk are gaining an advantage over visiting teams due to the artificial surfaces that are in place at their respective home grounds.

That’s the view of Cork City manager John Caulfield, who takes his side to the Brandywell this Friday for a Premier Division clash with Derry.

The game will offer the champions their first opportunity to play on the new synthetic surface that was installed at the ground during its redevelopment, which forced Kenny Shiels’ side to play their home games at Maginn Park in Buncrana last season.

Dundalk, who have been Cork City’s fiercest rivals in recent seasons, have also used an artificial pitch at their Oriel Park home since 2005. An upgraded version was installed last year.

Caulfield, whose squad have trained on an artificial pitch at Cork Institute of Technology in the build-up to Friday’s clash with Derry, said: “It’s fantastic that Derry have gone back to the Brandywell. I always loved going to the Brandywell. I always felt that Derry and Cork are similar in lots of ways. It’s just disappointing that it’s an all-weather pitch.

“No matter what people say, it’s a totally different game on an all-weather [pitch] than it is on grass. That will never change. At the same time, they have a very, very good home record, they’re unbeaten, they’ve scored lots of goals and they have a dynamic team.”

Derry are undefeated in the seven home games they’ve played since returning to the Brandywell, scoring 23 goals in the process. They rebounded from a shock 2-1 defeat away to Bray Wanderers last Friday by booking their place in the semi-finals of the EA Sports Cup on Monday courtesy of a 7-3 victory over Shelbourne on Foyleside.

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Derry City v Limerick - SSE Airtricity League Premier Division An artificial surface was installed during the redevelopment of Derry City's Brandywell Stadium. Source: Oliver McVeigh

“Obviously any manager who has a team that plays on an all-weather pitch will try and play it down and say that it’s not an advantage.

“But let’s call a spade a spade: up to this year, every pitch in the country was grass and one club had an all-weather pitch. Has it been an advantage? Of course it has,” Caulfield said in relation to Dundalk, who won three consecutive league titles before City were crowned champions in 2017.

“Were they still a very good team? Of course they were. But one team playing full-time on a pitch that no one else does, of course it’s an advantage. Let’s not kid ourselves.

“Derry have made use of the Brandywell in the right way. It’s an all-weather pitch. That’s just part and parcel of the way the game is going at the moment. Maybe in 10 years’ time they [artificial surfaces] will be all banned again.

“But at the moment that’s the way it is and they have to make use of it. And they’re making use of it, because their home form is fantastic. They’re still a very good team, but at the same time you have to deal with that. Nothing’s going to change. There’s no point in making excuses, which we don’t do.

“You just have to get yourselves prepared, practise on one and get the boys used to it. But it is a different type of game, there’s no doubt about that.”

Cork City will aim to maintain their lead at the top of the Premier Division table when they make the long journey north on Friday. The Leesiders moved three points clear of Dundalk and Waterford with a 2-1 defeat of Limerick on Saturday. Fourth-placed Derry are eight points off the pace but the Candystripes have a game in hand.

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Paul Dollery

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