Cork City picked up a significant three points on Monday night as they snuck past a plucky Finn Harps in Donegal thanks to a Garry Buckley strike. The home side offered little in response and the victory moves Cork City a step closer to the wrapping up the league title, although they haven’t been playing like champions in recent weeks.
August hasn’t been a month to remember for Cork City, who have struggled to replicate their early season form. That 1-0 success over Finn Harps leaves them needing just five points from their remaining seven games but they’ve had to dig deep. Dundalk’s resurgence has seemingly come a little too late in the season but had the leaders chalked up a second successive league defeat on Monday it may have set the nerves jangling. John Caulfield’s side slipped up at home against Sligo Rovers earlier in the weekend and the quick turnaround made this a potentially tricky test. The league title now surely awaits for the two-time champions.
Dundalk find themselves 17 points behind the leaders despite an eye-catching 4-0 victory over third-place Derry City on Sunday. The margin of the success was perhaps surprising, given the hosts’ recent form on their own patch, however, Dundalk looked unstoppable and easily could have increased the margin of victory. Stephen Kenny gave his players “huge credit” for their display but they must be acutely aware that the title race is all but over. They have won their last four matches in all competitions netting 14 goals in the process but are paying the price for their early season inconsistencies. They were beaten four times before the end of April, including slipping to a 2-1 defeat against Cork City. The leaders haven’t been helped by the sale of top scorer Sean Maguire to English Championship outfit Preston and he was later joined by team-mate Kevin O’Connor. They’ve wobbled lately with two surprise home defeats against Bohemians and Sligo Rovers and haven’t netted more than two goals in a league game since the middle of June. Embed from Getty Images
Cork City are clearly missing the prowess of their former striker who scored in every single game for the leaders, netting 20 goals between the end of February and the beginning of July. Maguire appears to have settled into life at Preston, despite not finding the net for his new club but has received his first international call-up to the provisional Irish squad ahead of the upcoming qualifying matches at the end of August.
Martin O’Neill’s side will face crucial match-ups with Georgia and Serbia as they seek qualification for the World Cup 2018 in Russia and those who are thinking of backing the Republic of Ireland to prove successful in Group D can find a range of welcome bonuses and offers from online bookmakers to boost betting balances ahead of the upcoming International fixtures.
Cork City are wobbling but they appear to have done enough to secure just the third League of Ireland title in their history. Dundalk are likely to be a force next season if they can continue their fine end of the season form but they may have to settle for second place this time around.