Opinion - Ballybofey test proves Cork's credentials

23rd November 2023

SSE Airtricity League reporter Andrew Horgan has looked into the significance of the Finn Harps ahead of the first Cork City home match against Galway United tonight... --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

SSE Airtricity League reporter Andrew Horgan has looked into the significance of the Finn Harps ahead of the first Cork City home match against Galway United tonight...


In terms of footballing ability, Cork City will undoubtedly face sterner tests than they did against Finn Harps on Friday night.

The Donegal side started the new campaign with aspirations of avoiding one of the three relegations places in the SSE Airtricity league whereas the Leesiders have their eyes firmly set on reclaiming the league title for the first time in 12 years.

A win by the smallest of margins is hardly the most impressive of results but given the context, it may well be the toughest test of character that City will face this season.

“A sea of muck” was the interesting term that City boss John Caulfield used to describe the pitch at Finn Park.

“We looked at the conditions and they weren’t good, it was a mental battle, it wasn’t about football because you couldn’t play football but the lads adapted to the conditions the wind, rain, unplayable pitch and did it brilliantly,” he added.

The weather was bad but the pitch was worse, so bad that the game hadn’t officially been given the go ahead until four hours before kick-off.

Given the fact that Cork also had to make the six hour drive up to Donegal the day before the match, preparations for said mud bath between City and Harps were far from ideal with players forgiven for being potentially distracted by talks of a possible postponement.

“The main thing was to make sure that the players knew that the game was going ahead,” admitted Caulfield.

“They were listening to people and texting people saying the game mightn’t go ahead and there was a pitch inspection but we were literally staying near the pitch.

“From ten o’clock that morning whilst the conditions of the pitch were very difficult there was no doubt the game was going ahead because of the pressure and in fairness to Finn Harps, they wanted to play the game.

“We had decided at ten in the morning that the game was going ahead and the players were well aware even though there was still a four o clock inspection, we knew in the morning with the forecast was there was no question.

“So we were quite prepared, we knew exactly what would happen, we knew the pitch would cut up quite quickly so we just approached it with an intelligent pint of view.

“It’s part of it, we are all from Ireland, we know the weather, we know there can be days like that but we have a great bunch here and I’m really happy with the lads we have, I think it’s a good time to be a supporter of the club at the moment.”

Apart from the three points, one of the other main positives to take from the match was return captain John Dunleavy to the starting eleven.

The defender played his first minutes since injuring his knee in training last June and even the Donegal native, who grew up close to Finn Park, described the conditions as “unreal” as he also had to tolerate some hostility from the home crowd.

“When we got down to the pitch I stepped out onto it and you could feel how soft it was,” said Dunleavy.

“When we started doing to warm up it just starting cutting up straight away, it wasn’t conditions for showing any quality really, it was very, very difficult.

“But I think we played it very well, we were very pleased with how much character we showed.

“It was strange for me, I grew up in Ballybofey so walking down the street to actually go and pay against Finn harps was strange but it was brilliant at the same time, I really enjoyed it.

“Not many people thought I would be playing, including myself, but when they found out they came down to watch.

“My dad was there, my brother, cousins, friends and family, it was just a good occasion so to get the win and the three points was the main thing.

“Coming off then and ten or twenty of my friends were there booing me off the pitch so that was funny, it was just a good night all round.”

The talk in the build-up was about making the longest journey of the season up to Finn Harps, to get the three points and to get home.

That’s what City have done in the most trying of circumstances.

They have shown they can do it on a cold and wet Friday night in Ballybofey.

The first test of character has been passed.