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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 20 February, 2019

Ex-Dundalk goalkeeper on standby as Cork sweat over McNulty's Champions League availability

City’s first-choice stopper is doubtful for the visit of Legia Warsaw.

Mark McNulty Cork City goalkeeper Mark McNulty. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

CORK CITY WILL give veteran goalkeeper Mark McNulty every opportunity to prove his fitness ahead of their Champions League clash with Legia Warsaw.

Having been crowned SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions last season for the first time in 12 years, the Leesiders will fly the Irish flag in Europe’s premier club competition at Turner’s Cross tomorrow evening.

However, they may have to face the Polish champions in the first leg of their first round qualifier without the services of one of their most experienced players. After twisting his ankle, McNulty had to be substituted late in Friday night’s goalless draw with Shamrock Rovers.

City manager John Caulfield admitted afterwards that the 37-year-old would be “under pressure” to recover in time for tomorrow’s game. However, Caulfield was more optimistic about his goalkeeper’s prospects at this afternoon’s pre-match press conference.

He said: “We’re going to give him right until the end. It’s a tough one. He wants to play. He has improved dramatically. Great healer. But at the same time, we’re going to wait until tomorrow to see.”

Should McNulty be deemed unfit, Peter Cherrie will make just his third competitive start for the club, while 19-year-old David Coffey will deputise on the bench.

Caulfield added: “Obviously we’ve done a lot of work with Peter and David Coffey has come in as well, so from that point of view we’ll leave it until the last minute regarding that.

“Yesterday I would have thought it was trickier, but he [McNulty] is up there walking around the place, he’s jumping, he did a light session this morning so we’ll just have to gauge it.

“While it’s a huge game and Mark obviously wants to play, at the end of the day we can’t play him if he’s not 100% and if there are any setbacks. We’ll monitor it with the physios tomorrow.”

Peter Cherrie Peter Cherrie was a league winner at Dundalk. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

McNulty’s absence would provide a major opportunity for Peter Cherrie, who has previous European experience from his time at Dundalk, for whom he made five appearances across two Europa League campaigns.

Cherrie spent five-and-a-half seasons with City’s rivals and helped the Lilywhites to win the Premier Division title at the Leesiders’ expense in 2014. He started in the decisive 2-0 win over City on the final day of the season, which gave Dundalk their first title in 19 years.

The 34-year-old Scot moved to Cork ahead of this season after a stint with Bray Wanderers. He started in the 4-2 President’s Cup win over Dundalk back in February, and in April’s EA Sports Cup clash with Waterford, which City lost on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Elsewhere, John Caulfield says defender Alan Bennett and striker Graham Cummins will both be assessed for knocks ahead of tomorrow’s game. Full-back Colm Horgan has been ruled out due to a calf injury, while Garry Buckley is also a concern after he sustained a blow to the head against Shamrock Rovers which required stitches.

“He’s got a lot of stitches in his head,” Caulfield explained. “The swelling has gone down. He’s done a light session this morning. He’s improving day-on-day. If he had another two days he’d certainly be right so we just have to give him until tomorrow afternoon to see where he’s at. The doctor will have a look at him as well.”

Adding that there was no hint of a concussion about Buckley’s knock, Caulfield said: “It’s just from a heading point of view, and will it re-open and cause interference with his eyesight? The doctor is fairly optimistic so we’ll wait and see.”

Cork City Football Club confirmed this afternoon that tomorrow’s game has completely sold out.

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Paul Dollery

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