Date: 7:45 p.m. May 15, 2009
Venue: Turners Cross
Dan Murray celebrated his 27th birthday a day early by scoring the winner near the end of the first half as the biggest Turner’s Cross attendance of the season were also treated to the most entertaining game seen at the venue so far this season.
Although Sammy Morrow forced Dan Connor into making an excellent save in the first 60 seconds from a Kevin Deery cross, the first half belonged to the home team who dominated all over the pitch.
Denis Behan was fouled 25 yards out from goal and Colin Healy struck the free-kick off of the wall and subsequently out for a corner, which then amounted to nothing, on 9 minutes. Following that, Faz Kuduzovic hit a powerful right-footed effort narrowly over Gerard Doherty’s bar as Cork put the Candystripes under a barrage of pressure.
Cork’s football at times was great to watch; all one touch passing with every single player looking to find space for themselves and keep their excellent form going. The opening almost came when Faz Kuduzovic, playing on the right-side of Cork’s three man frontline, hit a belting effort narrowly wide of the mark with just a quarter of an hour on the clock.
Derry’s only other chance of the first half came in the 28th minute, when Mark Farren looked like poking the ball into the net from Sammy Morrow’s cross. However, Dan Connor produced an excellent save, turning the ball around the post for a corner. From the resulting kick, Steven Gray found space but he was only able to skew his effort over the bar.
The breakthrough finally came when Murray, always a player to spring up on the big occasion, poked the ball in from close range after Greg O’Halloran headed Colin Healy’s effort goalwards. It sent the crowd of over four thousand inside the ground into raptures and for a moment the Rebel Army could forget about the off-field woes which continue to cast a shadow over the clubs performances on the pitch.
The second half was tame in comparison to the opening period thanks to the sending-off of Mark McChrystal. Robert Mezeckis, who only returned from injury limped off with what looks like a re-occurring knock to his ankle early in the second period, but it was Derry who were dealt a bigger blow when they lost McChrystal to a second booking for a late challenge on Colin Healy in the middle of the park just 7 minutes after the break.
Cork looked completely in control with the extra man and if Guntars Silagailis wasn’t judged offside in the 67th minute, he would probably have doubled their advantage when he found plenty of space. On 70 Faz Kuduzovic advanced forward after Joe Gamble done well, but the Bosnian attacker fired well over.
Another positive for Paul Doolin’s side was the introduction of Stephen O’Donnell. The ex-Bohs midfielder was injured on the opening day against Sligo Rovers, and having originally being expected to have had a longer lay-off; he was introduced with 15 minutes remaining. Cork were happy to sit back but when Faz Kuduzovic played to Denis Behan on 78, it should have been all over only for a very tight offside call.
Derry gave the home side a slight reason to worry when Eddie McCallion fired a long-range effort narrowly wide with just seven minutes to go after he was left unmarked after advancing from right-back.
Just as the game looked like ticking out quite calmly, there was a flurry of late drama. Stephen O’Donnell, whose unlucky start continues, saw red in the final minute. There was an incident, which went un-noticed to most inside the ground, near the corner flag in the final minute of normal time and when the assistant referee brought it to Declan Hanney’s attention, the referee brandished a red card to leave Cork with a nervy couple of minutes.
James McLean then added to the drama by putting the ball into the net in the final minute, though he was ruled offside to the relief of a furious Paul Doolin. His emotion turned to joy just seconds later though, when Hanney blew the final whistle as Cork move to the summit for the first time in almost two years.
Cork City: Dan Connor, Robert Mezeckis, Greg O’Halloran, Dan Murray, Colin Healy, Joe Gamble, Guntars Silagailis, Fahrudin Kuduzovic, Cillian Lordan, Denis Behan, Pat Sullivan Subs: Mark McNulty, Timmy Kiely (Robert Mezeckis, 51mins), Alan O’Connor, Stephen O’Donnell (Guntars Silagailis, 76mins), Kevin Long
Derry City: Gerard Doherty, Eddie McCallion, Peter Hutton, Mark McChrystal, Steven Gray, Ciaran Martyn, Sammy Morrow, Thomas Stewart, Kevin Deery, Barry Molloy, Mark Farren Subs: Pat Jennings, Ruaidhri Higgins (Barry Molloy, 75mins), Tam McManus, David Scullion, James McLean (Mark Farren, 75mins)
Referee: Declan Hanney
Official Man of the Match: Colin Healy
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Dan Murray – scorer of the winning goal and a rock at the back for the home team.