Big time football is back at Turner’s Cross but a superb Drogheda United spoiled the party on Leeside as they came from two goals down to defeat a defensively weak Cork City in front of almost 4,000 fans on Friday night.
City had, undeservedly, been two goals to the good 33 minutes into the game but Drogheda, who went out to attack from the off, were full value for a thrilling win. Mick Cooke’s men look very good at this early stage of the season. While they picked up many plaudits for the way they performed against Shamrock Rovers on the opening night, despite losing, they showed here, in what is historically a difficult place to get a result, that they’re going to improve drastically on last season’s ninth place finish.
Things could look very bleak very quickly for Cork however, with Shamrock Rovers coming to town next week before a tough trip to the Brandywell and Derry City the week after. On the basis of their first two games, this match as well as the opening day defeat at UCD, Cork could quite easily end up pointless four games into the season.
Although Drogheda started promisingly, Tiarnan Mulvenna spurning a couple of decent opportunities, it was Cork who took the lead with their first meaningful attack of the game on 13 minutes. Shane O’Connor, turning in a much better performance in comparison to last week’s showing at Belfield, played a beautiful lofted through ball into the path of Daryl Horgan.
The former Sligo Rovers man raced into space and produced a terrific finish low into the net past Gabriel Sava for City’s first goal in the Premier Division. Still, Drogheda looked the better side, particularly against a home team that looked all over the place at the back when Drogs pushed men forward, and they went close to equalising on 22 minutes through Mulvenna again, while Gavin Brennan shot over four minutes later.
Nonetheless, the home team doubled their advantage just after the half hour mark. Horgan turned provider this time, his ball from the right reaching Vinny Sullivan and the striker blasted home at the near post.
It was slightly unjust on the visitors to be two behind but they deservedly halved the deficit five minutes before the interval. Yet more slack play from the Cork defence saw Peter Hynes head the ball past the stretching Mark McNulty and although it looked like his effort was creeping in anyway, Mulvenna added a touch to ensure the goal.
The home team didn’t look too comfortable with their lead and Drogheda were deservedly on level terms seven minutes after the interval from the penalty spot. Danny Murphy hauled down Gavin Brennan inside the area and up stepped Hynes, blasting low to McNulty’s left to make it 2-2.
Drogheda deserved to be level and it got a whole lot better for them soon after when Shane Duggan was sent off for a moment of madness. A late challenge from Brian Gannon annoyed Duggan, he jumped to his feet and pushed Gannon to the floor. The Drogheda right back made an absolute meal of it, clutching his face when the contact was actually with his chest, but Richie Winter didn’t hesitate and produced the red card immediately.
It was all United at this point and the comeback was complete in the 73rd minute after a moment of misfortune at the back saw Gavin Kavanagh head into his own net after a corner from Philip Hand caused problems at the near post.
City never really threatened in the remaining stages, the disadvantage of only having ten players costing them dearly in the end.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; John Dunleavy, Dan Murray, Gavin Kavanagh, Danny Murphy (Kalen Spillane 65); Daryl Horgan, Gearóid Morrissey, Shane Duggan, Shane O’Connor (Tadhg Purcell 75); Davin O’Neill (Cathal Lordan 65), Vinny Sullivan.
Subs not used: Ian Turner, Danny Morrissey, Jamie Murphy, Kevin Burns.
Booked: Sullivan (44), O’Connor (60), Dunleavy (90).
Sent off: Duggan (55).
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan McNally, Derek Prendergast, Shane Grimes; Gavin Brennan, Ryan Brennan (Jack Flynn 89), Mark O’Brien, Philip Hand (Dean Marshall 71); Tiarnan Mulvenna (John Breen 88), Peter Hynes.
Subs not used: Stephen Trimble, Stephen Quigley, Sean Brennan, Chris Kerr.
Booked: R Brennan (87).
Referee: Richie Winter.
Official Attendance: 3,912.
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Tiarnan Mulvenna – a constant thorn in the Cork side.