Cork City enjoyed the perfect preparation for next week’s opening of the 2017 SSE Airtricity League season with a resounding 3-0 win over reigning champions Dundalk on Friday night.
Over three thousand people braved the miserable weather at Turner’s Cross and they were rewarded with an enthralling game. And for the home fans there was a second consecutive President’s Cup win to celebrate at the full-time whistle.
It took just 15 minutes for Cork to edge ahead in what was already a competitive and entertaining game. Gearoid Morrissey pinged a 40 yard pass out towards Sean Maguire on the left but the striker had plenty to do before he got sight of goal. He beat Paddy Barrett with a little help from the slippery surface and bore down on the target before drilling a low shot past Gabriel Sava and inside the far post.
A mid-half lull was broken when Jimmy Keohane glanced Conor McCormack’s ball past Sava for what looked like a second after 27 minutes. But the assistant’s flag denied the home side and Dundalk almost equalised six minutes later. Pat McEleney, Dundalk’s creator-in-chief throughout the evening, made an excellent run through the inside-left channel before flicking a cross towards John Mountney. The midfielder had time to measure his header which was powered accurately to the the top left corner of the City goal, but Mark McNulty pulled off an extraordinary save to keep his team ahead at the break.
The second period was as engaging as the first and it was one in which Cork not only stretched their lead, they also put in a performance which will have given them great confidence for the campaign ahead. Conor McCormack was superb at centre-back, smothering the threat of Ciaran Kilduff with poise as well as power. City were also in control across midfield with Morrissey, Buckley and Bolger commanding the centre of the pitch. And when Karl Sheppard came on in the 65th minute he added a whole new level of threat.
Dundalk’s positive play came largely from the feet of the inspired McEleney as well as the experience and nous of Stephen O’Donnell. They might have levelled on 57 minutes when McEleney spun past Bolger and fed Michael Duffy. His low cross just eluded Kilduff in the centre.
The real pressure, however, was being exerted at the other end. Keohane found Gannon in a muddle on 65 minutes and nipped in to shoot just wide, while Sheppard, just on for Bolger, sent Dooley through three minutes later. His run was only stopped by Barrett’s body-check and with no covering defender he will have been grateful for referee Anthony Buttimer’s leniency. A yellow card was deemed sufficient punishment for the Dundalk centre-back but Cork squeezed more retribution from the free kick, which Kevin O’Connor smacked into the top left corner despite Sava getting a hand to the ball.
With 11 minutes left Sheppard gave notice of what was to come with a powerful run down the right and a fizzing low shot that skipped across the goalmouth and wide of the far post. There was a delay on 90 minutes when Kilduff collided with McNulty, resulting in the Dundalk striker being stretchered off, but with five added minutes there was still time for Sheppard to produce an exquisite third.
Buckley fired a quick free down the right hand touchline and found Sheppard. He dummied past Dane Massey and then cut beautifully inside Barrett before advancing on Sava and placing his shot wide of the Dundalk keeper and inside the post to put the icing on Cork’s cake.
The serious business of the league starts next Friday but this defeat of three-time champions Dundalk will give John Caulfield’s men a huge confidence boost for the challenge ahead.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Steven Beattie (Shane Griffin 83), Conor McCormack, Gary Delaney, Kevin O’Connor; Jimmy Keohane, Garry Buckley, Greg Bolger (Karl Sheppard 65), Gearoid Morrissey (Conor Ellis 87), Stephen Dooley (Conor McCarthy 90+2); Sean Maguire.
Subs Not Used: Alan Smith (gk), Garan Manley, Achille Campion.
Booked: K O’Connor (43), G Buckley (71).
Dundalk: Gabriel Sava; Sean Gannon (Niclas Vemmelund 80), Brian Gartland, Paddy Barrett, Dane Massey; John Mountney (Steven Kinsella73), Robbie Benson, Stephen O’Donnell (Conor Clifford 77), Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy (Jamie McGrath 80); Ciaran Kilduff (Carlton Ubaezuono 90+2).
Subs Not Used: Ben Kelly (gk), Sean Hoare.
Booked: P Barrett (68), B Gartland (90+3).
Referee: Anthony Buttimer
Extratime Man of the Match: Conor McCormack (Cork City).