Fool Me Once

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. – Every Cork City Fan on the Planet.


Normally at the start of this blog I go with a quote and attribute it to the originator, this time seeing as it can be traced back to an Italian Proverb from 1651, I’m just going to attribute it to the Cork City fan base. Before I get into the meat of this week’s blog, I just want to say thank you to everyone for reading, it does mean a lot and hopefully I can do a regular weekly blog delivered on a Thursday, for the coming season, God knows I won’t be short of material.  

Speaking of which, we record the first pod of the year next Monday night, we have never hidden the fact that motivation for another year of first division pods was a big thing all off season and we struggled to get going. Then on Tuesday motivation came from an unexpected source as, out of the blue, my phone rang, and the FAI were on the other end. The subject of the call will inevitably become public knowledge in time though we never wished to advertise that information.

When it breaks, remember if we had wanted to, we could have publicly raised it nine months ago, but we didn’t. Id imagine the podcast on the week of the Kerry game will be an interesting listen.

Before that we return on Wednesday the 31st with a new season of TOTAP, This season on TOTAP we will once again try and change things up, there is nothing worse than segments going stale and getting boring and we try not to allow this to happen. With this is mind, Brendan Shine has never sounded as good…

Las Damas will return later as a weekly pod, as the Women’s Premier Division dosent kick off until March. We need (for obvious reasons) to make Las Damas much more of a league wide pod, however we will never abandon the ladies at CCFCW and they will still feature prominently during the coming season. 

Now, back to the quote, this time last year Cork City FC was still in limbo while waiting for the sale of the club to Dermot Usher to be finalised. I believe it was on the 3rd of February 2023 that Foras members received the email stating that the sale had been completed. At that stage our squad looked thin on the ground and it was clear that there was going to be an issue bringing in players at that late stage of the window, this was put down to the length of time the sale took and was largely accepted by the clubs fans as the reason why we entered last season with a squad well short of the required standard. Remember it would all be sorted out in the summer window. Safe to say I don’t want to hear one mention of this summer’s window between now and July.

Fast forward twelve months and here we are again and this time there is no sale of the club to contribute to the lack of squad, which is now causing concern to everyone, including those who were completely unbothered a month ago. We have one striker on the books, so we are short at least two, the club have admitted they are on the look out for a CB, two different players have appeared as trialists in that position in the games against Galway and St Pats, neither it appears were deemed good enough to have earned a contract. In my opinion we are also short a right back and a genuine ball winning No6 in the middle of the park. There has been no mention of RBs or No6s from Tim Clancy so I must figure that they are not currently on the recruitment list, however I do recognise that Tim isnt going to tell the press everything that he is up to. 

We have recruited well in areas, the addition of Greg Bolger, fills a massive gap on the pitch and an even bigger one in the dressing room. What is also clear is that Tim Clancy isn’t going to stand for any of the nonsense that was permitted to take place in the second half of last season.

Charlie Lyons is an accomplished first division centre half and himself and Cian Coleman as a partnership has the potential to be very good but as already pointed out, depth is a huge issue here currently. When we won this division in 2022 our four CBs were Cian Coleman, Ally Gilchrist, Jonas Hakkinen and Josh Honohan, we actually ended up playing 352 most of the season because the quality of the players available in the position demanded that they play. Josh has now sneaked off to Shams, Jonas is headed back to Scandinavia without so much as an acknowledgement from the club and Ally Gilchrist it is believed maybe heading back to Scotland with possible retirement on the cards.

It must be said that the Cian Coleman, Charlie Lyons, and Harry Nevin axis does not scream league winners in the same way the four in 2022 did. Coleman and Gilchrist were absolute giants that season, a season in which we only conceded 22 goals and 3 of those were in the second last game away in Athlone, having secured the league the week before at home to Wexford. Sam Bailey is someone if we were still a Premier Division side, that I would be shouting from the rooftops should be loaned out to garner experience. I could also argue reasons for doing so even in our current set up, but at the moment, it is very likely that he will be needed as cover, I fear that said need may hamper his long-term development, but time will tell.

Sean Murray is a fantastic signing, a player you are obliged to take a chance on in the LOI First Division, because if you can keep him fit, his ceiling is sky high. But you are taking a chance and there is a reason he has dropped to this level, injuries. We can’t hide from the fact that Sean is a very talented footballer who has been plagued by injury for a few years now. IF, IF, IF we can get and keep him fit, his potential as a goalscoring 8 or 10 is genuinely off the charts, himself and Greg Bolger have the potential to blow this league away on their own. But (there is always one) as was pointed out to me within five minutes of Raymond Armitage IV sending through news of Sean Murrays, at the time, approaching move to CCFC, “Only concern would be him and Bolger wouldn’t have much physicality between them” “But if they keep the ball enough, they don’t have to get stuck in, so who will care”.  

Well, I do.

I have a few core footballing beliefs, that are evidently going to be tested this season. The first is that Centre Backs should never be played as Full Backs and another is that no matter what kind of midfield set up you go for, you need a physically able, ball winning No. 6 in there to help your more progressive and expansive midfield players, and this is the LOI First Division, you cannot hide from the need for physicality. We don’t have one, as was pointed out to me we may not need one if we can completely dominate games, but its not easy in any league to continually dominate possesion especially without an ability to win possesion back. At my core, I’m a football conservative, I like to cover all bases and take as few chances as possible, and I do feel that heading into a first division season without that physicality in midfield is a risk that we do not need to take.

It also dosent scream that we won’t win the league as that is still the most likely outcome, but it does demand that questions be asked, why with four weeks left to the kick-off are the only professional club in the division struggling to recruit key players in important positions? The answer is simply, I don’t know, but after last seasons debacle, is it fair to say that this preseason scenario is becoming a habit? I think it is to be honest, there are too many similarities with last season to be able to dismiss it as a coincidence, yet as I have said already there is no club sale to hide behind this year. That does not mean that we won’t hear the same excuses rolled out when the time is right, “the change in direction and philosophy having appointed Tim Clancy meant we were always playing catch up” is surely an odds-on favourite to lead the charge? “X wasn’t signed until late and missed most of preseason so he is behind where we need him to be, we will have him up to speed in a few weeks” is another likely contender.

People will say, Decky is losing it again and there is a month left to kick off, they are right, I am(to a small degree) and there is, but this is the nitty gritty time in pre-season when the running and heavy lifting has been done and the transitions and systems get hammered home to the players daily. It is by far and away the most important time in presason, and we have players who will be starters on opening night missing the sessions because they haven’t been signed yet. It’s too important a time to not highlight the failings so far in putting a squad together, we have signed good players who will win us games, but leagues are won by squads, and it is very very debatable if what we currently have in, is a league winning squad.

They fooled us last pre-season, are we going to allow them to fool us again this time round?