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'A lot of people thought that this year it might be just a one-horse race'

Dundalk and Cork City have once again pulled clear of the chasing pack in the Premier Division.

Cork City manager John Caulfield after last night's win over Waterford.
Cork City manager John Caulfield after last night's win over Waterford.
Image: Eóin Noonan

DESPITE SOME INDICATIONS earlier in the season that Waterford might be capable of breaking the duopoly, Cork City manager John Caulfield admitted after last night’s win over the Blues that the race for Premier Division silverware will again be contested by the same two clubs who have shared the last four titles between them.

Waterford have managed to record home wins over both City and Dundalk in 2018, but the reality for the third-placed team in the top flight is that they’re now 11 points adrift of City and 13 behind the table-topping Lilywhites.

City’s 3-0 victory over their Munster neighbours last night at Turner’s Cross kept the champions on the heels of Dundalk, who blitzed Shamrock Rovers on a 5-2 scoreline in Tallaght. The Leesiders will return to the summit if they win their game in hand, which takes place on Monday afternoon when Derry City make the long journey south.

According to Caulfield, some observers didn’t expect his team to be in with a chance of successfully defending their title following the loss of key players from their 2017 campaign, such as Sean Maguire, Stephen Dooley, Ryan Delaney and Kevin O’Connor.

“With all the changes we had and with the new personnel coming in, I think a lot of people thought that this year it might be just a one-horse race,” he said. “I felt from early on that it was important for us to start the season well, because with the investment… a lot of clubs have 20, 22 players, other clubs have 26 players. That means when you’re playing three games a week it takes its toll.

“From our point of view, as I keep saying, it’s important we get to the [mid-season] break and stay in there. My fear was that with so many changes, if we dropped off and dropped too many points, we wouldn’t recover.

Garry Buckley celebrates scoring his sides opening goal with Barry McNamee and Alan Bennett Cork City players celebrate after Garry Buckley opened the scoring against Waterford. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We have a massive game on Monday, our game in hand, and incredibly we could go back on top if we can play to form. But at the same time there are three games until the break.

“Monday is the next biggest one and we need to stay in there because certainly the winner of the league is going to come from the two teams [Dundalk and Cork City]. No matter who makes a run at this stage, they need some of the top teams to lose three, four, five games — and that won’t happen.”

City defied a poor first-half showing last night to take a 1-0 lead into the break thanks to Garry Buckley’s goal on the stroke of half-time. Graham Cummins and Kieran Sadlier struck in the second half to maintain their 100% home record this season.

Caulfield said: “It was the type of game where we looked like we’d score, but at the same time we weren’t in control of the game because Waterford had played so well. To score just before half-time was pleasing because it steadied us down.

“Certainly our first-half performance wasn’t good. For some reason we didn’t control the ball well, we didn’t pass the ball well and it looked like there was a bit of nervousness in the team, which is unusual. But going in at half-time we were able to regroup and get things right for the second half.”

He added: “It was the type of game where we could have scored two or three more goals, but at the same time that would have been unfair on Waterford because they were definitely the better team in the first half.”

Derby delight for City as Buckley, Cummins and Sadlier keep 100% home record intact

Dundalk blast five past Hoops to maintain lead at the top and pile pressure on Bradley

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Paul Dollery

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