Niall Newberry reporting from Oriel Park.
Last year’s double winners Cork City won this season’s first piece of silverware on Sunday afternoon at a wintry Oriel Park, defeating Dundalk 4-2 to lift the President’s Cup for the third year running.
The proverbial game of two halves, Dundalk controlled the first and deservedly went in at the break two goals in front thanks to a brace from Ronan Murray on what was his full debut for the club.
However, the introduction of Karl Sheppard at half-time spearheaded what was an epic comeback by the Leesiders. The substitute’s goal was followed up by headers from new signings Barry McNamee and Graham Cummins, as well as an early goal of the season contender courtesy of Kieran Sadlier.
Before the season’s curtain-raiser began though, there was a minute’s silence in honour of former Republic of Ireland international Liam Miller, who tragically lost his short battle with cancer last Friday.
There was also a minute’s applause, which was impeccably observed by both sets of supporters in the 22nd minute – the shirt number that Miller wore throughout his solitary campaign with Cork City in 2015.
Conditions were difficult in the first half as a Lilywhite blizzard ensued with the hosts taking a deserved lead when Michael Duffy’s cross from the left wasn’t properly dealt with by the Cork defence, allowing Murray to poke the ball home and score his first competitive goal in a Dundalk shirt.
In truth, the hosts could and probably should’ve made more of their first half dominance and went close to doubling their advantage when goalkeeper Peter Cherrie made a hash of a clearance which fell to Jamie McGrath, but his resulting effort was blocked off the line by Colm Horgan.
Jimmy Keohane then spurned a glorious opportunity wide for Cork before Cherrie, who once upon a time played over 200 games for Dundalk, was rooted to his spot after Duffy’s rasping effort from distance hit the frame of the post with the Scottish custodian well and truly beaten.
Dundalk inevitably doubled their lead when captain Dane Massey’s cross from the left wasn’t cleared by Alan Bennett before Murray duly obliged, lifting the ball over the helpless Cherrie.
The second half emergence of Sheppard, who was heavily linked with a move to Dundalk during the close season, proved to be the catalyst to Cork’s comeback as he pulled a goal back barely five minutes after the restart following a mix-up between Gary Rogers and his defenders.
Cork indeed equalised soon afterwards when the impressive Sadlier provided a pinpoint cross from the left which was met by the head of debutant McNamee as John Caulfield’s side sensed victory.
Then came the moment of the match ten minutes from time when Sadlier found himself in space before unleashing an unstoppable strike from 30 yards out, giving Rogers absolutely no chance and stunning Oriel Park into complete silence as Cork’s comeback was complete.
Dundalk’s capitulation was further compounded as Sadlier again crossed from the left, this time finding Cummins, who headed home Cork’s fourth to put the seal on a third consecutive President’s Cup triumph for the Leesiders.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Georgie Poynton, Sean Hoare (Robbie Benson 38), Stephen Folan, Dane Massey; Dylan Connolly (Jack O'Keeffe 88), Kristjan Adorjan (Patrick Hoban 67), Chris Shields, Jamie McGrath, Michael Duffy; Ronan Murray.
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava, Gavin Smith, Adam Finnegan.
Cork City: Peter Cherrie; Colm Horgan (Steven Beattie 45), Alan Bennett, Aaron Barry, Shane Griffin; Jimmy Keohane (Karl Sheppard 45), Barry McNamee, Conor McCormack, Gearoid Morrissey (Conor McCarthy 90), Kieran Sadlier (Sean McLoughlin 90); Graham Cummins (Tobi Adebayo-Rowling 90).
Subs not used: Adam Cantwell, Danny Kane.
Referee: Derek Tomney
Attendance: 3,000 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Kieran Sadlier (Cork City)