Cork City put in a commanding performance to hand Drogheda United their first defeat of 2017, running out 4-1 winners at United Park in a game that turned on an early red card for Drogheda’s Richie Purdy.
The first forty-five minutes were full of incident starting with a yellow card for Drogheda centre-back Ciaran McGuigan after just two minutes and a half cleared corner kick for the visitors that fell to Gearoid Morrissey, whose drive from the edge of the box was blocked away to safety. And it was cards and corners that would dominate the action thereafter.
Just six minutes later Drogs defender Luke Gallagher conceded another corner. This one was also half cleared to the edge of the area where it was headed back into the danger area by Morrissey and City’s prolific striker Sean Maguire had all the time he needed to nod the ball past Stephen McGuinness for the opening goal.
Drogheda, to their credit, refused to let their heads drop and on 16 minutes they won a corner of their own after Steven Elliott miscued from close range and saw the ball scrambled over the end-line. When it arrived in the visitor’s box it was met by McGuigan and his low drive was turned in by Elliott.
It seemed this might turn in to a real contest but such hopes were severely dented on 19 minutes when Drogheda’s Richie Purdy went in late on Steven Beattie and was shown a straight red by referee Derek Tomney. Three minutes later Thomas Byrne risked the same fate with a challenge on Karl Sheppard that was arguably worse than Purdy’s, but the Drogheda winger survived with only a yellow.
The home support’s hopes for an upset were dealt another blow five minutes before the break when City went ahead from another corner. This one was sent in by Beattie from the left and was expertly dispatched by Morrissey who lost his marker in a run to the near post.
Drogheda’s half-time dressing room would no doubt have resounded with calls to keep the faith and to remain organised and obstinate, but just four minutes into the second period any realistic ambitions of taking points from this game ended. And yet again a corner kick was their undoing.
McGuinness saved well, low at his left hand post from Garry Buckley, and when Kevin O’Connor’s ball came in from the corner flag the Drogheda ‘keeper punched clear. But it was met on the edge of the box by Sheppard whose first-time effort sailed through the defensive bodies and into the net.
Bar one or two heroic sorties into enemy territory the rest of the game was dominated by the Leesiders and in particular the ruthless efficiency of Greg Bolger who ensured that City won any loose ball and then kept it for long periods of time.
Without any great sense of urgency Cork went about the business of shutting the game down while any genuine chances on goal were created by them. Buckley headed straight at McGuinness on 52 minutes and substitute Achille Campion volleyed just over just after the hour.
With 13 minutes left Connor Ellis was played in by Bolger and was on the verge of adding a fourth when McGuinness plucked the ball of his toe. But deep in added time Ellis made amends, sweeping in Campion’s excellent through ball to give John Caulfield’s side their third straight win of the 2017 campaign.
Drogheda United: Stephen McGuinness; Colm Deasy, Luke Gallagher (Lloyd Buckley 61), Ciaran McGuigan, Stephen Dunne; Thomas Byrne (Shane Elworthy 54), Richie Purdy, Sean Thornton, Jake Hyland, Gavin Brennan; Stephen Elliott (Gareth McCaffrey 70).
Subs Not Used: Dylan Sweeney (gk), Conor Kane, Ryan McEvoy, Mark Griffin.
Booked: McGuigan (2), T Byrne (22).
Sent Off: Purdy (19)
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Conor McCormack, Alan Bennett, Ryan Delaney, Kevin O’Connor (Shane Griffin 81); Steven Beattie, Garry Buckley, Greg Bolger, Gearoid Morrissey (Connor Ellis 73), Karl Sheppard; Sean Maguire (Achille Campion 54).
Subs Not Used: Alan Smith (gk), Rimvydas Sadauskas, Jimmy Keohane, Christian Nanetti.
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Extratime Man of the Match: Greg Bolger (Cork City).