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Cork City require only five more points from their seven remaining league games to clinch the League Of Ireland Premier Division title for the first time since 2005 following a hard-fought but well-deserved victory against Finn Harps in Ballybofey on Monday evening.
After a defeat at home to Sligo Rovers last time out, a trip to Donegal just days later against a Harps side fighting for their Premier Division survival was always going to be a tricky test, but it was one John Caulfield’s side passed with their workrate and desire.
The only goal of the game in the 70th minute, after a ball into the box for Steven Beattie was met by Ryan Delaney and his header came off the post. On hand was Gary Buckley to react quickest and tap the ball into the back of the net from close range.
Kieran Sadlier looked lively for the visitors on the night and was involved in much of the visitor’s play when they went forward. He went close to opening the scoring before the end of the first half with a headed effort that was turned over the bar by Ciaran Gallagher in the Harps goal.
City had the better of things in the first half, but they were just unable to convert their play onto the score sheet. Sadlier and Karl Sheppard were the closest to finding the back of the net before the break.
Prior to conceding what turned out to be the game’s only goal, Harps had their best spell of the game and looked to pile on the pressure. The introduction of Ibrahim Keita seemed to add a bit of an injection of life into the Donegal side’s play.
Mark Timlin fired over the bar from a very decent position after getting on the end of a through ball from Keita. They would rue that missed opportunity and failure to make that good spell of pressure count, as City went ahead just minutes later.
Unfortunately for Harps they lacked that cutting edge in front of goal on the night, but the performance will give Ollie Horgan’s side more than plenty of hope that they can get out of this relegation battle.
That looks like going right down to the wire and one would not be surprise, as Horgan has commented on himself, if the battle for survival went down to the final day of the season.
City could have added to their tally before the end, as Sadlier and Connor Ellis both went close, while in second half stoppage time Gary Buckley fired over from just a few yards out.
It didn’t matter in the end as Cork got back to winning ways in the league. It is only a matter of time now before they can finally get their hands on that league title.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Killian Cantwell, Damien McNulty, Ciaran Coll; Ethan Boyle, Tommy McBride (Johnny Bonner 87), Paddy McCourt, Mark Timlin (Pascal Millen 80), Gareth Harkin, Sean Houston; Danny Morrissey (Ibrahaim Keita 62)
Subs not used: Peter Burke (gk), Johnny Bonner, BJ Banda, Shane Blaney.
Booked: Killian Cantwell (4).
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Steven Beattie, Alan Bennett, Ryan Delaney, Shane Griffin; Gearóid Morrissey, Jimmy Keohane, Conor McCormack, Gary Buckley, Kieran Sadlier (Connor Ellis 87); Karl Sheppard.
Subs not used: Alan Smith (gk), Greg Bolger, Achille Campion, Conor McCarthy, Robbie Williams, Pierce Phillips.
Referee: Paul Tuite.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Kieran Sadlier (Cork City).