Cork City booked their place in the last eight of the EA Sports Cup thanks to a narrow 1-0 win over Wexford Youths at a breezy Ferrycarrig Park on Monday evening.
Stephen Mulcahy grabbed the decisive goal early in the second half with a header from six yards out and that was enough for the Leesiders, who held onto that lead despite ending the game with ten men after losing Danny Murphy late on for showing dissent towards referee, Jim McKell.
In an even first half, both sides created good chances but a lack of cutting edge saw both ‘keepers look relatively unthreatened for large spells.
Vinny Sullivan had Cork’s best opportunity after some neat-play with Vincent Escude-Candau ended with the striker’s effort hitting off the post. Mulcahy, returning after a long injury lay-off, also headed narrowly over on 12 minutes from a Gearoid Morrissey corner, while Davin O’Neill also volleyed well wide.
The home team also created some good chances of their own, Shane Nolan particularly lively on the right wing. Darragh Walshe and Danny Furlong both linked up well leading the line for Noel O’Connor’s side, too, and they combined in the 17th minute with the latter’s finish easily held by James McCarthy.
A mazy run from Nolan shortly before the half hour mark gave the winger enough space to get a shot away, only for his looping attempt to curl inches wide of the post. At the other end, Youths’ stopper Packie Holden pulled of a tremendous stop shortly before half time from a Davin O’Neill header, after Shane Duggan’s in-swinger towards the penalty area, to keep the scores level at the small whistle.
The away side broke the deadlock ten minutes after the break though, as Mulcahy capped off his first start of the season with a solid header, nodding Morrissey’s curling corner past Holden after emerging from a crowd of players six yards out. It was a nice reward for the Irish u-23 defender, who had been suffering on and off for the past 11 months with injury.
Youths did their best to get back into the game but City were looking the stronger. Esucde-Candau was unlucky not to double the advantage when his header was held by Holden after an inviting cross from Sullivan, while at the back Mulcahy and Kalen Spillane looked comfortable.
The home team didn’t really create much, apart from Kevin Rowe falling over inside the area when under pressure from goalscorer, Mulcahy. While the Youths winger was on the ground again after an exaggerated fall when Timmy Kiely dragged him down after a few seconds where they looked like a loving couple, holding hands.
Cork then wasted a magnificent chance to kill the game off with 19 minutes to go. Duggan cut the ball into the path of Sullivan but from six yards out he disappointingly shot straight at Holden. Youths’ best chance of levelling came from substitute Ben Ryan on 74, as his stinging shot was palmed away convincingly by McCarthy.
Duggan could have wrapped it up for City with a long-range effort which bounced back off the upright, while Ryan volleyed wide from the edge of the area too. In very strange circumstances Murphy was then shown a red card for making a comment to the referee three minutes from the end but it did little to alter the result.
Next up for Youths this weekend is the visit of Waterford United in a south-east derby, while Cork have a bye on Friday night before hosting Longford Town on May 6th.
Wexford Youths: Pakie Holden; Garret McCurtin, Karl Keogh, Anthony Wolfe, Martin Kehoe (Robert Dempsey, 88mins); Shane Nolan, Greg Yelverton, Craig Wall (Eoin Kinsella, 85mins), Kevin Rowe; Danny Furlong, Darragh Walshe (Ben Ryan, 71mins).
Subs not used: Muzzi Mullen.
Booked: Holden (81)
Cork City: James McCarthy; Ian Turner, Stephen Mulcahy, Kalen Spillane, Danny Murphy; Gearoid Morrissey (Gavin Kavanagh, 90mins), Shane Duggan, Vincent Escude-Candau, Davin O’Neill; Timmy Kiely, Vinny Sullivan.
Subs not used: Graham Cummins, Kieran Keneally, Jamie Murphy, Simon Holland, Rory Morrissey, Mark McNulty.
Booked: Kiely (68).
Sent off: Murphy (87).
Referee: Jim McKell.
Attendance: 200 (estimate).
ExtraTime Man of the Match: Shane Duggan – solid in midfield and also unlucky not to score.
Alan Smith works as a sub-editor for the Guardian newspaper in London. Originally from Cork, he freelances for several other newspapers and websites. Follow him on twitter @alansmith90.