Former Cork City defender Neal Horgan believes the Leesiders can breathe life into a stuttering campaign with victory against Shamrock Rovers and prove they are still a formidable force.

John Caulfield's men are 12 points adrift of the Hoops, albeit with two games in hand, and go into Friday night's showdown at Turner's Cross off the back of a 1-0 loss at Dundalk.

The likes of Jimmy Keohane, Barry McNamee and Kieran Sadlier departed over the winter and Caulfield has had to gamble on youth in a bid to reshape a team that finished second to Dundalk last term. 

However Horgan, who won the league with Cork in 2005, said there's no panic yet.

"I don't think fans are worried; I think they're trying to weigh up whether it's going well or not," he told the RTÉ Soccer Podcast.

"They've done well at times but there's a big changeover of players. They obviously lost a lot of players and they've brought a lot of players in. The match against Shamrock Rovers this Friday is going to be very interesting.

"I just think the Cork crowd are weighing it up at the moment to see if this Cork team is going to challenge for the title or are we looking at a transition. It looks like a transition to me.

"They don't have enough experienced guys throughout the squad that will do enough to challenge Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers, who have been very impressive. 

"This is make-or-break stuff. It's going to tell a lot. And you know what? Maybe those Cork players will answer the questions on Friday night. If they beat Rovers it changes the colour of everything."

Stuey Byrne meanwhile fears the mentality is too downbeat. 

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After the defeat at Oriel Park, boss Caulfied said: "We have a lot of new players and young players, and a number of guys are injured at the moment. We’re working hard and we’re hoping we can stay in there. If we can compete for Europe, that’s what we’re trying to do."

Ex-Shels midfielder Byrne said that attitude can make things too easy for players.

"The issues with Cork have been that the expectation is not what it was. John hasn't helped things either.

"I know the budget has been cut there, he's mentioned it quite a lot, and I think that gets inside the players' heads. It tells them, 'well we're not expected to push'."

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Watch Cork City v Shamrock Rovers live on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player this Friday from 7.30pm