Sometimes when you least expect it, you’re treated to a classic. Cork City and Dundalk may be in the wrong half of the table at the moment but league standings mattered for little as these two sides played out a thrilling contest at a soaked Turner’s Cross.
The biblical rain conditions that arrived shortly before kick-off were always going to make this a lottery but what ensued in the opening 20 minutes of this game is unlikely to be repeated all season.
Dundalk may be edging closer to the bottom of the table but it would be difficult to criticise them on this occasion – simply because the conditions were horrendous. They showed moments of promise and of course the goals for column was given a much needed boost, but their defensive inexperience was also highlighted from time to time.
For Cork, this win meant a new milestone was met: consecutive wins. They were the better side and there was no doubt they deserved another three points to take them above the Lilywhites.
The opener arrived after only three minutes thanks to a fantastic finish from Davin O’Neill. Daryl Horgan worked his way past his marker before winning a corner, Gearóid Morrissey swung it in and O’Neill met it first time to volley off the bar and in.
It took just five minutes for Dundalk to draw level however, thanks to a speculative shot from Michael Rafter which was aided heavily by the conditions. Slightly over 25 yards out from goal, he was allowed too much space to shoot. His effort skidded along the turf and despite Mark McNulty being well placed to collect, the wet ball slipped from his hands and went in off the post.
Perhaps such a goal wouldn’t have been scored on a dry night but things, temporarily, got even better for the Lilywhites on 12. Dan Murray was culpable for the concession of their second, a lack of concentration when Gearóid Morrissey had left the ball for him led to Gary Shanahan nipping in.
McNulty was off his line and with an open goal, Shanahan shot home. At this point the floodgates, excuse the pun, were well and truly opened. And City regained parity two minutes later, O’Neill scoring his second of the evening. Kalen Spillane played a sterling long ball to him, the attacker controlled and cut in from the left and he delicately swung the ball into the right side of the net and past Peter Cherrie.
It was never going to be possible for the madness to continue at such a blistering pace and the game did finally settle down a bit. Yet the tie remained highly entertaining. Horgan went closest to scoring the home side’s third after some good link-up play from Tadhg Purcell and Vinny Sullivan, but Cherrie made a wonderful stop at full stretch with the ball heading for the top right corner.
Both sides and the officials changed strips at the break – giving you an indication of how wet it really was. The rain remained unrelenting at the beginning of the second half though, yet Cork City flew out of the traps again.
Sullivan, the hero in last week’s win at Tolka Park, produced an almost carbon copy of his winner against Shels to edge the home side back in front with a fantastic header in the 50th minute. Gearóid Morrissey added another assist to the 2012 section on his CV with a lovely cross from the left flank and Sullivan rose to turn the ball home with his forehead.
At some points in the second half, when the chanting momentarily died down, you could hear the players splashing their feet on the pitch. Some sections were akin to a pond but the torrential downpour did ease off a bit after an hour.
Michael Osobe, scorer of the opening goal when the clubs’ U19 sides met in the FAI Cup final on Wednesday night, was introduced by Sean McCaffrey on 71 as Dundalk looked to commit more men forward and McNulty made a good stop from former City youth teammate Rob Waters on 77 minutes, but Dundalk rarely threatened other than that and it finished off 3-2.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Colin Healy, Dan Murray, Kalen Spillane, Danny Murphy; Daryl Horgan, Shane Duggan, Gearoid Morrissey, Davin O’Neill; Vinny Sullivan (Ian Turner 90), Tadhg Purcell.
Subs not used: Kevin Burns, Stephen Kenny, Garry Buckley, Cathal Lordan, John Dunleavy, Gavin Kavanagh.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; John Mountney, Cian Byrne, Liam Burns, Eoghan Osbourne; Paul Walsh, Rob Waters, Stephen McDonnell (Peter Thomas 83), Gary Shanahan; Shane O’Neill (Chris Reilly 81), Michael Rafter (Michael Osobe 71).
Subs not used: Ger Hanley, Gareth Coughlan, Nathan Murphy, Ben McLaughlin.
Booked: Waters (55).
Referee: Padraigh Sutton.
Official attendance: 2,815.
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Gearóid Morrissey – two assists and despite Dundalk’s second goal, an excellent all round performance.