Athlone Town 0
Cork City 3
CORK CITY PICKED up their third win of the new Airtricity League Premier Division season in comfortable fashion when they cruised to a 3-0 victory over Athlone Town at Lissywoollen tonight, a result that sees them climb to joint top of the table and set up a tantalising battle with Shamrock Rovers at Turners Cross next weekend.
Mark O’Sullivan, Billy Dennehy and Liam Kearney were the goalscorers on a night when Cork were by far the more comfortable team on the ball, yet it was one defensive error and two long balls that brought about their goals, begging the question of how different things could have been if Athlone captain and centre back Aidan Collins wasn’t forced to miss the tie due to a late injury.
However regardless of speculation, this was Athlone’s fifth reverse in five competitive starts this season and manager Mick Cooke has it all to do if he’s to prevent an immediate return to the First Division.
For long stretches of the first half, it looked as if this would be the night that the Town would pick up their first positive result of the new season. They competed aggressively for loose possession around the middle and in James O’Brien, they had a livewire playmaker who always looked to put them on the front foot.
City had their moments too in the early stages, particularly when Darren Dennehy got good purchase on a Billy Dennehy cross and only missed the far post narrowly with a 10th minute header, but the home supporters had more to shout about, forcing four corners and plenty of half chances in the opening period.
Philip Gorman’s physical presence was a constant threat but his high work rate and combative approach wasn’t matched by accurate finishing and he was off target with both a header and a close range shot from a tight angle, the best opportunities that Athlone could muster.
In a game with little to call between the sides, a mistake was always a potential factor in any goal that would break the deadlock and that was the case when Athlone failed to deal with a left-wing cross in the 43rd minute and instead only deflected play out to the opposite side. Billy Dennehy took control and hit a glorious delivery behind the back four, but tantalisingly far in front of Paul Skinner in the Athlone goal. When the Town custodian hesitated, Mark O’Sullivan pounced to scoop the ball home from the six-yard line.
Athlone briefly started the second half with intent and tempo, and within seven seconds of the restart, James O’Brien had cut his way into the Cork City half and got a shot away, though he missed the target by a considerable distance.
A minute later, however, their hopes were all but crushed when again, a failure to deal with a long ball over the top saw Liam Kearney slip the ball past the keeper, enabling Dennehy to touch in an easy goal to double the lead.
Athlone continued to press for the duration of the second half and at times they looked lively in possession, but the City defence held firm and Mark McNulty never had to deal with anything but long-range efforts and weak headers, nothing that tested him too severely.
Cork moved the ball about well on the break and they got plenty of joy down both flanks but when their third goal did come, yet again it was from a long ball over the top. This time Liam Kearney was minute and instead only deflected play out to the opposite side. Billy Dennehy took on the end of a hacked clearance and as he bore down on goal and saw Skinner advancing, he didn’t hesitate to blast the ball into the roof of the net from ten yards out.
ATHLONE TOWN: Skinner; Dillon, McMahon, Prendergast, S Byrne (Sweeney, 53); A Byrne; Rusk (D Brennan 81), S Brennan, O’Brien, Marks (Hughes 81); Gorman.
Subs not used: Sexton, D Brennan, Clancy, Scullion, Hughes.
CORK CITY: McNulty, Lenihan, Murray, D Dennehy, Dunleavy, Healy, Kavanagh (Kearney, HT) Morrissey, B Dennehy, Buckley (O’Leary 66), O’Sullivan (Turner 80). Subs not used: Murphy, Mulcahy, Lehane, Gledhill.
Referee: Rob Harvey.
Aitricity League Premier Division results