A tooth-and-nail performance saw Cork City FC come from behind to return to the top of the Premier Division table with a 2-1 win over Limeick at Turner's Cross on Saturday afternoon.
An opener from Danny Morrissey saw City concede their first goal at the Cross since September 2017, but headers from Graham Cummins and Josh O’Hanlon salvaged the three points as the Rebel Army went three points clear.
In what was an tight opening; Limerick sat back with the hosts in controlling the play. Both sides canceled each other out in what was a game of inches through, as City controlled midfield through the experienced Jimmy Keohane, Conor McCormack and Garry Buckley.
After a patient opening, City’s procession was almost rewarded as Karl Sheppard linked up with Buckley, but the midfielder’s cross hit into no man’s land out of the reach of Cummins.
City where awarded a penalty on the ten-minute mark when Killian Cantwell brought down a charging Steven Beattie inside the area.
Up stepped Sheppard, but his low shot fell straight into the hands of Brendan Clarke to keep it 0-0.
Spurned, City won back procession instantaneously with Colm Horgan crossing it deep into the area for Cummins, whose glancing header grazed the crossbar.
Feeling the pressure, Limerick reorganized and flooded the midfield, breaking City’s control.
Limerick’s first effort of the game came from Conor Clifford who fired hard into the hands of McNulty in goal after finding space on the right side.
Inspired by the opening, Limerick used the avenue for success as Billy Dennehy in a similar position to Clifford crossed it into Morrissey, who acrobatically shot to make it 1-0.
City gathered and, with the tooth and nail attitude that saw them concede once in eight months at the Cross, struck level within two minutes, Horgan crossing for Cummins to flick passed Clarke.
City could have taken the lead from the restart as a low cross from Barry McNamee found Gary Buckley at the far post but an intervening Billy Dennehy dived into Buckley’s shot sending the ball out for a throw in.
Dennehy switched to attack and slotted through Bennett and McLaughlin to find Mark O’Sullivan, who dogged his way through the City line to fire low past McNulty and inches wide of the target.
With Limerick growing, City freshened their line with the addition of Josh O’Hanlon for Barry McNamee, switching into a 4-4-2.
It was a change that proved vital, as within seconds of his introduction O’Hanlon made it 2-1, when the striker met the end of a Kieran Sadlier cross to fumble it into net ad send the Shed End into euphoria.
Limerick, stunned and feeling the pressure, pushed forward and switched to three at the back to pile the midfield but, despite having all the play, chances where a minimal.
Against a side famed for their defensive prowess, City eased the pressure and switched to a counters and Sheppard broke with Keohane, but his cross fell straight back into the Limerick line.
O’Hanlon almost grabbed his second, as he headed in space once again, but the pouncing Billy Dennehy clamoured on the line to clear for a Limerick counter.
The Shannonsiders charged forward thanks to the dogged physique of Mark O’Sullivan, but a smothered City’s defense sent the ball out for a goal kick.
End to end, both sides took what they could get with a loose ball by Cantwell picked off by Kieran Sadlier, who gathered himself and delayed his run, but the winger’s shot bounced off the cross bar for a goal kick.
Limerick tried to gather, with Billy Dennehy and Clifford sending balls into the area for O’Sullivan but an organized City line held tight to prevent Limerick equalising.
In the end, the resilience of the Champions showed through with City grinding out a 2-1 win to go three points clear at the top of the table.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Steven Beattie, Alan Bennett, Sean McLoughlin, Colm Horgan; Garry Buckley, Jimmy Keohane, Conor McCormack; Steven Beattie (Kieran Sadlier 55), Karl Sheppard, Barry McNamee (Josh O’Hanlon 69), Graham Cummins (Danny Kane 82).
Subs not used: Peter Cherrie (gk), Aaron Barry, Michael Howard, Conor McCarthy.
Booked: Colm Horgan (31), Karl Sheppard (74).
Limerick: Brendan Clarke; Killian Cantwell, Darren Dennehy, Tony Whitehead; Cian Coleman, Shane Duggan, Conor Clifford, Billy Dennehy, Eoin Wearen; William Fitzgerald (Karl O’Sullivan 20), Danny Morrissey (Mark O’Sullivan 67).
Subs not used: Tommy Holland, Shane Tracey, Colm Walsh O’Loughlen.
Booked: Shane Duggan (2), Killian Cantwell (9).
Referee: Tomas Connolly.
Attendance: 3,516 (official).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Graham Cummins (Cork City).