Home Soccer Local Based Players Key To Cork City Success

Local Based Players Key To Cork City Success

Cork City FC, John Caulfield's Rebel Army in a team huddle before their League of Ireland game against Bohemians FC at Turners Cross on October 17th 2014

Cork City FC, John Caulfield's Rebel Army in a team huddle before their League of Ireland game against Bohemians FC at Turners Cross on October 17th 2014


At his unveiling as Cork City boss last November John Caulfield declared that his new-look team would be made up of locally based players, Michael Dorgan takes a look at the make-up of the Cork City squad

John Caulfield is Cork City through and through. Although born in New York in 1964, the current Cork City manager returned to Ireland in 1968 and grew up in Roscommon. Owing to a new job he moved to Cork in 1985 and it is the Rebel County which has defined John Caulfield.

In 15 seasons with the ‘Rebel Army’, he made a club record number of appearances (455) and is the club’s joint all-time top scorer with 129 goals. After retiring he was quickly snapped up to manage local Munster Senior League outfit Avondale United where he immediately found success, winning two FAI Intermediate Cup and two Munster Senior League Premier Division titles.

He went on to achieve further success with UCC, winning a Collingwood Cup and First Division title before leaving UCC for City.

Local Identity

With this wealth of experience, Caulfield’s knowledge  of Cork football is vast and his faith in the talent from the area was obvious from the get-go when Caulfield declared the foundation of his new look Cork City was to be based from players within the local area and its surroundings.At his unveiling last November:

“I want a base of good, strong local players. We have a very good U19 set-up so we will look to promote players from within, and obviously attract players from the county and the province.”

Caulfield felt that the team had lost a small bit of identity and it is this local identity which has been key to the club’s revival. This philosophy was intertwined with his intent on making Turners Cross a fortress again. Caulfield is smart and wise enough to understand that the more locals playing, the more locals will come out and support, it has a knock-on effect and one which has proven fruitful this year in City’s title bid.

“I want all of the people from West Cork, North Cork, East Cork, all around the county and the city too, to rally around and come back. We want to get back the support we have lost, the people who have stopped coming to games, because we all know that Turner’s Cross, with 3,500 or 4,000 or 5,000 people in it, is a fantastic place to be.”

And so it has proven. 6,219 souls packed into Turners Cross last Friday night for their last home league game of the season, cheering City on to a crucial victory which sent them top of the table heading into the final game of the season.

The Squad

Here’s a look at the current Cork City squad:

Mark McNulty – A Ballincollig native, McNulty has been the regular Number 1 since taking over from Mick Devine in 2010.
‘Nults’ has been at Cork City since 2003 having also played with his local side Ballincollig and Cobh Ramblers. Nulty was between the sticks when City won promotion in 2011.

John Kavanagh – The Cork-born, former Ringmahon Rangers player has made the successful step-up from the under 19 ranks following a successful league and cup wining 2011-12 season.

John Dunleavy – The Donegal native has settled well in Cork since joining City shortly before the 2012/13 season and having an excellent season last year was named by Caulfield as the club captain this season; turning out to be an inspired choice.

Darren Dennehy – Darren, brother of teammate Billy, is from Tralee County Kerry. The 26-year-old central defender is a former Everton youth player and also had spells with English clubs Cardiff City, Hereford United, Gillingham, Barnet before joining City at the beginning of last season.

Gearóid Morrissey – Another Cork man, who played his underage football with Ringmahon Rangers in the southside of the city. He had a spell with Blackburn Rovers’ youth setup but returned home in 2010 to sign for Cork City

Colin Healy – By far the most experienced player in the Cork City squad, the man from Ballincollig has 13 senior Republic of Ireland caps and was the man called up to replace Roy Keane at the 2002 World Cup. The 34-year-old is having his second spell at City after playing with Celtic, Sunderland, Coventry City, Livingston, Barnsley, Bradford, Ipswich and Falkirk.

John O’Flynn – Another experienced player, the Cobh native is having his second spell with City after returning from Exeter City in July. O’Flynn’s previous time at the club was between 2002 and 2008 where he won a Premier Division title in 2005 and the FAI Cup in 2007. He has also played for Peterborough and Barnet.

Cillian Morrison – The Letterkenny striker joined City in July 2014, following a number of years with UCD.

Michael Rafter – Tipperary-born striker Michael signed for City ahead of the 2014 season having previously played for Waterford United, Dundalk and Derry City. He has missed most of the season due to an ankle injury.

Ross Gaynor – A fullback from Ardee, County Louth, Gaynor had a very successful spell with Sligo Rovers, winning the Premier Division in 2012 and the FAI Cup in 2013 before signing for City in July 2014.

Ian Turner – (on Loan) Another Cork-born player, Turner played with Wilton underage before playing with City’s youths. He was promoted to the senior squad in 2009 where he helped secure the club promotion by winning the First Division title, he is currently on loan at Limerick FC.

Danny Morrissey – The young Midleton man played with his hometown club underage before joining City youths where he had hugely successful time, bagging a League and Cup double with the Under 19′s before earning a call-up to the Ireland Under 19 squad.

Gavin Kavanagh – The Dublin defender was part of the team that earned promotion in 2011. The former Crumlin United defender then spent time with Waterford United, before returning to City in July 2014. He also had a spell at Nottingham Forest.

Dan Murray – A hugely popular defender from Cambridge in England, former Captain Murray’s first stint at the club was from 2002 – 2009 where he led the club to the league title in 2005. He returned to the club in 2012 and his leadership had been influential this season

Michael McSweeney – Cork-born Michael joined City in July having previously played with Mervue United. Michael has played under John Caulfield before, captaining UCC to their Collingwood Cup victory in 2010.

Brian Lenihan – Lenihan’s meteoric rise has seen him recently snapped up by Premier League side Hull City. The former College Corinthians player was another Cork born City player.

Billy Dennehy – Brother of Darren, the Kerry man has had an outstanding season having previously played with Sunderland, Derry City and Shamrock Rovers

David O’Leary – Cork-born O’Leary signed from Limerick FC at the start of the current season having also played underage with College Corinthians.

Neal Horgan – Although born in San Francisco, ‘Hoggy’, is another Cork City legend having been with the club since 1999, bagging a Premier Division medal in 2005 and an FAI Cup winners medal in 2007. Horgan also won a Setanta Cup medal in 2008 and was part of the side that won promotion in 2011.

Mark O’Sullivan – Probably the fairy tale story of the year in that at 31 this is O’Sullivan’s first full season at League of Ireland level. Perhaps one of the best amateur players in the country over the last few years, the Passage striker man played under Caulfield at Avondale and had won four FAI Intermediate Cups before signing at the start of the season.

Rob Lehane – From Douglas, the 20-year-old has bagged some vital goals for City this season. The pacey forward previously played with Douglas Hall and UCC.

Garry Buckley – From the north side of Cork City, the former Leeds AFC midfielder captained City’s double-winning under 19′s team and was quickly promoted to the senior team. Buckley has also been capped at Under 18 level by the Republic of Ireland

Kevin O’Brien – City’s number 2 is another Cork man having played at underage level for Cobh Ramblers. O’Brien had a spell with Nottingham Forest before spending four years in the United States on a soccer scholarship.

Darren A. Murphy – The Cork midfielder is another who came up through the City ranks having played with local side Rockmount before winning three successive Under 19 leagues, captaining the team in the third season. Murphy is also capped with the Republic of Ireland at Under 19 level.

Josh O’Shea – The 22-year-old Aghada man signed for City in the summer after a number of successful years under Caulfield at UCC, the highlight of which was winning the Collingwood Cup in 2010 and being awarded Player of the Tournament. O’Shea has also played with the Irish Universities team.

Liam Kearney – From Conna in North Cork, Kearney is having his third spell with Cork City after previously winning a Premier Division title in 2005, an FAI Cup in 2007 and a Setanta Cup in 2008. Kearney also won a league title with Shelbourne in 2006 and spent a few years in Australia playing for Australian Victorian Premier League side Dandenong Thunder SC

The Set-Up

Caulfield’s backroom staff is also reflective of his team. His assistant John Cotter is a former City player and succeeded Caulfield at Avondale United, leading them to three more intermediate cups and two league titles. Coach Billy Woods had three separate stints with City as a player and was part of the team that last won the Premier League title in 2005.

The Welsh-born, former Cork City goalkeeper Phil ‘Biscuits’ Harrington is the club’s goalkeeping coach and considered a legend amongst the City faithful. Having made his debut on 4 September 1988, ‘Biscuits’ went on to keep 112 clean sheets from 257 appearances in his City career playing alongside Caulfield when City won the league in 1993.

One Last Battle

Cork City go to war for the last time this season on Friday night when they face Dundalk. One last push is needed from Caulfield’s men and the entire Cork population will be behind them.


This article first appeared in Pundit Arena on October 23rd, 2017. To view the original version, click here

Image: Copyright Michael Dorgan 2014, All Rights Reserved