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Interview: John Caulfield, Cork City FC

Caulfield hoping City can soak up the pressure ahead of Aviva clash;
Sports writer Dylan O’Connell sat down with current Cork City FC and former UCC Manager John Caulfield ahead of the FAI Cup final to talk about CCFC and UCC soccer.

EXPRESS: So John, with the buzz about the FAI Cup final next Sunday, how’re you feeling?

JOHN CAULFIELD: I feel okay yeah, we’ve had a few knocks so we’re hoping this week they might clear up absolutely our form in the last 12-14 days you know we won away at St. Patricks and Bohemians and drew with Dundalk which where three high intensity games which where needed, you know the challenge next week is that next week,  Dundalk are overwhelming favourites they won the league by a mile this year they are expected to win while our form dipped in the last few months you know when people look back where to we have been and we need to put in a massive performance next Sunday, if we do then we win the cup and if we don’t we lose. Simple as.

EX: Are you trying not to let it set into your players that they’re playing on the big stage, the Aviva Stadium, and how are you preparing for the game?

JC: There’s two ways to look at it. You can be overwhelmed and not preform and go there an embrace the occasion. As footballers say this is where I want to be and this is where I want to play and this is where I want to be. People react differently.  I’m hoping that we can go into the occasion and soak up in the atmosphere, and the fact that we that we played there before, but we do have a few experienced guys but as the same time we go into the occasion and soak up the atmosphere.

EX: How did you find the change, from stepping up from UCC and Munster Senior League to League of Ireland? Like in the space of five weeks at the club you were bringing in gate respites of over 5,000 along while galvanising the City and club which was shown on Monday Night Soccer as well as with all the City tops around the City!

JC: It’s obviously different, like I was with amateur football at Avondale where I won national cups and then I stepped up to UCC where I won the Collingwood Cup. The big difference is that these guys are getting paid. These guys are professionals and train every day to make their living and as well as that it is the highest level in the country with the opportunity to play European football. I suppose it’s the challenge coming in was huge, and John Cotter coming in, but my knowledge coming in of the League of Ireland Is huge from a player and watching. Whenever you are in the top level of non-league with UCC and Avondale, and with the highest level at City, you’re still dealing with people and you have to treat them with respect and with dignity. The main difference is that these guys are getting paid and playing at the highest level.

When we first came in that was the priority; to try and galvanise these groups of players and the team.

We had a phenomenal season this year, we’re second again unfortunately but that’s where we have been at, Dundalk have pushed the bar high. But we are in a cup final and qualified for Europe two seasons in a row. This is a building process and we’ll be stronger next year and we’re hoping to drive the club on.

Win or lose next Sunday, if we win it would be a fantastic occasion for our supporters, but the important thing is that we drive on and were back here next year.

EX: Is this the biggest game of your managerial career?

JC: As a manager? It’s hard to know…I’m suppose it’s the fact that it’s the cup final in the Aviva. I suppose from a public perspective and a supporter’s perspective it’s brilliant from a supporter’s point of view. I haven’t really thought of that to be honest.

I came in here to do a job. To revive the club and bring back the glory days and bring the club back to the glory days and back in Europe.

EX: Do you think a UCC League of Ireland team would be sustainable?

JC: The problem with that, from a UCC point of view, they would have to put in phenomenal finance. You’re not going to compete with the Munster Senior League sides. When you look at UCD, half of their team hasn’t (studied) in UCD. When UCD have done well in the Premier Division they have had a lot of outside players, or players who have been in UCD have then taken on in a full time capacity. There is a misconception that they have a team of students. A strong indicator of this, the gap between senior league and the premier division is massive, when the college here won the Collingwood this year, they played Dundalk in the League Cup a month later and Dundalk fielded eleven changes from their change. UCC had their full strength Collingwood team and Dundalk fieldedd their second team, and the score line was still 5-0. The differences as you go up is the speed, the strength and the quality of players.

EX: Or do you even think that a second team in Cork would be sustainable on the same scale of Cork City FC?

JC: No chance, I would say no chance, simply because, from an outsider’s view before I took the job; Cork is a sports mad City everyone follows everything; Soccer, rugby, hurling, football and everyone wants to win. Everyone follows the winning team. It’s different to other counties. So from my point of view, when we were doing really well we can bring in 5-6 thousand supporters.

Our crowds where down to 1,200 people and sixth in the table. But if you’re not competing for the top you won’t bring in the supporters.

EX: Sure John, I remember I met a Pats fan up at a comic convention last August and he was telling me that two years ago Pats played Dundalk for the title and Dundalk sold out their allocation. The game ended 1-0 to the Saints, and the following week Dundalk where back to crowds of 400 again.

JC: What we have in Cork we have a massive following, but a lot of people only come for the big occasions, like football, soccer, Munster and only go to the big games. Like we don’t have the fan base for 5 and 6 thousand each week but what we do have s a dedicated fan base. So that is why a second team would not be sustainable for a second team. I don’t know how a second team could survive.

EX: Would you like to see a more expansive league though, with more teams from the west of Ireland as opposed to a Dublin dominated league? Or do you think that with Dundalk, City, Shamrock Rovers and St. Pats all getting money now from Europe, do you think that they could take off and leave the other teams behind?

JC: Unfortunately n Ireland professional players are only played 24-30 weeks of the season. That’s why so many go to England. They sign for Championship and League One clubs. Shamrock Rovers, Pats, can’t pay players in the off season. Ideally a 52 week season would be brilliant. While you’re right about the team winning the league and getting more money, we all need to compete.

Cork City FC face Dundalk this Sunday in the FAI Cup Final. We at UCC Express would like to wish John & his team the very best of luck. The Final will be aired on RTÉ 2 (and on the RTÉ iPlayer) on Sunday, kick-off at 3pm.