Stephen Walsh reports from Turner's Cross
Cork City went top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division in front of a sold out Turner's Cross as a second-half strike from Gearóid Morrissey gave City all three points.
Tonight was the sort of atmosphere the League of Ireland will do their best to replicate throughout the league with a full house and raucous noise from before kickoff that carried on well into the game.
The first half was a battle with both teams cancelling each other and little in the way of shots. The second half was a more open affair with Morrissey’s goal on 59 minutes ultimately deciding the fixture.
Cork City made one change from the last league game with Danny Kane making his league debut coming in for the injured Shane Griffin.
Dundalk, who won the last instalment between the sides 1-0 thanks to a Ronan Murray goal, made one change to the side with Chris Shields coming into the side in place of Stephen O’Donnell.
Cork City had the earlier attacks with Cummins firing wide followed by Morrissey a few minutes later.
Dundalk looked dangerous with crosses into the box during the first half. Robbie Benson headed over from a Michael Duffy corner on 18 minutes but it was two minutes later that Dundalk had their best chance of the opening half.
Daniel Cleary, who was having a tough battle with Cummins, headed off the bottom of the post from ten yards after rising highest to meet Duffy’s free kick.
Mark McNulty palmed a Duffy free kick away on 23 minutes as Dundalk tried to take the lead but they would only have one more chance in the half when Duffy fired wide from inside the box after good build up by Mountney saw him dribble past a number of City players.
The second half saw Benson bring a save out of McNulty with a header saved just moments after the restart, and a few minutes later Jamie McGrath fired narrowly wide from 10 yards after being set up by Mountney’s cross that was nudged on by a bandaged Patrick Hoban. The striker suffered a head injury in the first half and emerged for the second half with a bandaged head.
On 58 minutes John Caulfield decided to change things up by introducing Garry Buckley for Jimmy Keohane. A minute later the lead goal arrived.
Karl Sheppard crossed into the box only for Buckley to hit the bar from a matter of yards. The ball rebounded up to Barry McNamee who headed the ball back into the box where Cleary headed out to Morrissey on the edge of the box and the midfielder hit it first time on his left foot into the bottom of the net. It was the midfielder’s second goal of the season.
Sheppard went close minutes later when he slid a shot narrowly over the bar following McNamee’s cross to the back post. City were now playing with an energy that had been lacking in the first hour of the game and Sheppard had a shot from distance go over the bar.
Dundalk had a few half chances but struggled to test McNulty in the City goal in the aftermath of going behind, with Benson firing over on 71 minutes.
With four minutes to go substitute Ronan Murray stung the hands of McNulty with a shot from inside the box. Dundalk scored the last opposition goal in Turners Cross last September when Benson equalised, but there was to be no goal arriving as City held out for a fourth successive clean sheet in the league.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Colm Horgan, Sean McLoughlin, Conor McCarthy, Danny Kane; Conor McCormack, Gearóid Morrissey; Barry McNamee (Kieran Sadlier 80), Jimmy Keohane (Garry Buckley 58), Karl Sheppard, Graham Cummins (Josh O’Hanlon 88).
Subs not used: Peter Cherrie, Alan Bennett, Aaron Barry, Steven Beattie.
Booked: Keohane (51)
Dundalk: Gary Rodgers; Sean Gannon (Stephen Folan 46), Daniel Cleary, Sean Hoare, Dean Massey; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson; John Mountney (Dylan Connolly 82), Jamie McGrath (Ronan Murray 66), Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban.
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava, Stephen O’Donnell, Sam Byrne, Dean Jarvis.
Booked: Sean Gannon (5)
Referee: Neil Doyle
Extratime.ie Man of the match: Conor McCarthy (Cork City)