AUTHOR: Kieran Burke – @Kieran_B_Sport
Cobh Ramblers boss Stuart Ashton admits he has no idea who will be available for tomorrow’s trip to Ferrycarrig Park until he sees how many bodies present fit and healthy for training tonight. Having shipped seven goals in three games so far (the worst defensive record in the division), Ashton admits the mounting injury crisis at St.Colman’s Park is not aiding him in trying to stop the rot at the back with Ramblers picking up just one point from a possible nine to date. Pierce Phillips (ankle), Martin Coughlan(niggle in warm-up), Conor Drinan (still out from last week), Darren Murphy (niggle) are all either unavailable or major doubts for tomorrow’s game with the only team currently sitting below Cobh in the table that is Wexford FC.
“It doesn’t make things easy at the moment (the injuries) but it’s on the training field we’ve got to stamp out those defensive mistakes and go back to basics basically and cut those sort of things out and get the habits right again because when we do it I think people can see we’re half a decent side and we can match the best of them and the lads know that so we’ve got to just get our gameplan right and once we sort that out we’ve got to get a bit of the rub of the green as well, that’s not an excuse but every manager will tell you you need a bit of luck, but we’ve got to make our own luck too because our performances haven’t been bad we’ve just been caught with those sloppy moments,” said Ashton in response to how he will go about setting up against Wexford on Friday.
Aside from Athlone Town, who lead the division with seven points from their opening three games, a lot of the divisions so-called bigger sides have failed to burst out of the starting blocks so far meaning despite a disappointing few weeks for Cobh a win on Friday night could make up most of the lost ground so far this season. Asked if perhaps supporters and pundits were getting too carried away with early results off the back of last season’s shortened season where every point won or lost was crucial, Ashton agreed there was an element of that at play.
“The sooner we can get a win the better but as you’ve said there it’s a long season ahead of us and I think from last season and the way it panned out and with the two teams that came down I think everyone was expecting all of the teams to hit the ground running which can’t happen so I just think it’s still early and teams and players are still finding their feet and we hope by going back to doing what we’re good at we can find our true form,” remarked the Cobh Ramblers manager.
The big talking point across the First Division today was the news that Galway United have been awarded the three points after last weekend’s game with Cabinteely wasn’t fulfilled by the South Dublin outfit due to a positive Covid-19 case in their ranks. Shelbourne boss Ian Morris labeled the decision a “mockery” for the league but Cobh manager Stuart Ashton was certainly more reserved with his public feelings on the matter when questioned by the media earlier tonight.
“Everyone has their own opinion on it, it’s one where we’re all doing our best on a personal level not to catch it (Covid), and then as a group as well all the protocols are in the place but we’re in a difficult position as part-timers where lads have to go to work and so on and incidents happen where it might not be your fault so there’s no right and a wrong, the rules were put in place to keep the league up and running but I can see Ian’s (Morris’s) point of view as well but if we get more cases what do we do with the league then? Scrap it? Decisions were made at the start to keep the league running, it’s not ideal because we all want the games to be played but it’s done for the right reasons and there’s never going to be a right answer for this, unfortunately” said Ashton.
Although the circumstances surrounding last week’s Covid-19 case at Cabinteely have not been made public it is a fair point Ashton raises about the difficulties faced by part-time clubs and it should be remembered that in Northern Ireland Championship clubs were not deemed to be of “elite” status which led to the cancelation of their season. Asked if there was a feeling of responsibility to do things by the book Cobh Ramblers long-time servant Ben O’Riordan agreed it was crucial every player followed the league’s protocols to the letter of the law adding that he felt very lucky to be in such a privileged position given the number of people who can’t play competitive sport at the moment.
“You’d be cracking up at home without football so it’s a bonus to be playing football in general let alone the League of Ireland, so we do feel very lucky as players,” said O’Riordan who has racked up 111 appearances for Cobh Ramblers a club he admitted he “loves” during this evening’s virtual press conference.