Cork City progressed to the second round of the Setanta Cup despite being held to a draw in a chilly Belfast on Monday night.
Tommy Dunne’s men were comfortable on the night and one always suspected they had further gears to move to should the need have arisen, but from the moment Daryl Horgan put them into an unassailable five goal aggregate lead it was obvious that those gears would not be required.
The home side started brightly with Stephen Garrett carving out an opening in the first minute but his shot flew harmlessly over the bar. Liam Boyce was next to threaten for Cliftonville before Daryl Kavanagh had Cork’s first shot on goal after six minutes but he too was wayward and the ball sailed high over the crossbar.
Cork made two changes to the side that had comprehensively won the first leg, with Danny Furlong and Kalen Spillane coming in for Dan Murray and Colin Healy, and they took the lead on the quarter hour mark when George McMullan was dispossessed in midfield and Daryl Horgan raced clear before curling an unstoppable shot into the top left hand corner.
Cliftonville were now chasing the game and leaving themselves somewhat vulnerable at the back with Horgan and Daryl Kavanagh a constant threat on the counter. The home side should have equalised with half an hour gone but Joe Gormley, normally so deadly in front of goal, wanted too much time and Mark McNulty was grateful to gather in the City goal.
The Reds did get an equaliser on 38 minutes when Liam Boyce got in between Danny Murphy and Kevin Murray to prod the ball past McNulty and garner Cliftonville’s first goal against Cork in the Setanta Cup in five attempts.
A positive start to the second half was paramount for the home side and they duly obliged with Ronan Scannell attacking from left back and shooting wide, and then picking out Diarmuid O’Carroll with a cross but the former Republic of Ireland U21 international could only head the ball tamely into the arms of McNulty.
Any hopes of an unlikely comeback for the Northern team were extinguished on 52 minutes when Danny Furlong finished another incisive Cork counter attack by tapping home from close range after good work from Daryl Horgan in the build-up.
Cork had McNulty to thank for a great save from Cliftonville captain George McMullan’s downward header, then at the other end Conor Devlin did well to get down to Gearoid Morrissey’s drive with fifteen minutes to go.
Tommy Breslin will take great satisfaction at the way his charges kept chasing the game and deservedly got the equaliser on the night when Stephen Garrett broke from midfield and dinked the ball over McNulty to at least gain a creditable home draw for his side.
Then came a moment of controversy in time added-on as Kalen Spillane was sent off for an elbow at a corner but the referee had already seen a foul by a Cliftonville player and awarded a free out, much to the small but vociferous home crowd’s dismay.
It would prove to be the only downside for City as they can look forward to another trip to North Belfast when they take on Crusaders in the second round.
Cliftonville: Conor Devlin; Ronan Scannell, Eamonn Seydak, Marc Smyth, George McMullan; Stephen Garrett, Barry Johnston (Martin Donnelly 64), James Knowles, Diarmuid O’Carroll (Ciaran Caldwell 64); Liam Boyce (Tomas Cosgrove 74), Joe Gormley.
Subs not used: Ryan Brown, Ciaran Donaghy, Jody Lynch, Dermot McVeigh.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Danny Murphy, Kevin Murray, Kalen Spillane, Neal Horgan; Daryl Horgan (Adam Rundle 80), Gearoid Morrissey, Shane Duggan, Ian Turner; Danny Furlong (Danny Morrissey 61), Daryl Kavanagh (Dennis Behan 73).
Subs not used: Kevin Burns, Garry Buckley, Stephen Kenny, Jason Abbott.
Booked: Gearoid Morrissey.
Sent Off: Kalen Spillane.
Referee: Ross Dunlop.
Attendance: 350 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Daryl Horgan (Cork City).