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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 24 March, 2018

'This team took a lot of criticism after Friday' - Rebels rebound against Rovers

Cork City boss John Caulfield saw his side return to winning ways last night following their defeat to Dundalk.

Cork City players celebrate after Kieran Sadlier scored the only goal of last night's game against Shamrock Rovers.
Cork City players celebrate after Kieran Sadlier scored the only goal of last night's game against Shamrock Rovers.
Image: Stephen McCarthy

CORK CITY MANAGER John Caulfield described last night’s result against Shamrock Rovers as a “sweet” victory for his side in the context of their loss to Dundalk just 72 hours earlier.

City bounced back from a poor display in their 1-0 defeat at Oriel Park on Friday by overcoming an in-form Rovers team who had scored six times in each of their previous two outings.

Kieran Sadlier grabbed the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the 38th minute after Graham Cummins was fouled by Hoops goalkeeper Kevin Horgan.

“Absolutely,” said Caulfield, when asked if his side deserved all three points last night at Turner’s Cross. “This team took a lot of criticism after Friday night. They played well within themselves and we were deservedly beaten.”

Owing to injuries to the likes of Alan Bennett, Steven Beattie and Johnny Dunleavy, Caulfield handed starts to 19-year-old Conor McCarthy, who moved from centre-back to right-back following the defeat to Dundalk, and 21-year-old Sean McLoughlin, who partnered Aaron Barry in the middle of defence for just his second start for the club.

The City boss was delighted with the contribution of the local duo, after they played an important role in stifling a side who averaged a goal every 15 minutes in their recent wins over Derry City and Bray Wanderers.

Caulfield said: “You’re looking at a team that have scored six goals in their last two games. That’s 12 goals. We had a back four playing together for the first time.

“The lads did a bit of work together yesterday but it’s different when you’re in a cauldron like that and the pressure is on you. McLoughlin and McCarthy were outstanding. You expect it from Shane Griffin and Aaron Barry, but the two lads were brilliant.”

John Caulfield celebrates after the game John Caulfield celebrates after the game. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The win keeps the defending champions at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table ahead of Waterford on goal difference. Dundalk, who were held to a goalless draw by St Patrick’s Athletic last night, are three points adrift in third place, while Rovers, Pat’s and Limerick are all two points further back.

While City took 37 minutes to have an attempt at goal last night, they created several chances to double their lead in the second half. However, Graham Cummins, Gearoid Morrissey and Barry McNamee (twice) all failed to trouble Kevin Horgan.

Caulfield pointed out afterwards that his own goalkeeper, Mark McNulty, wasn’t tested either, but that doesn’t quite paint a full picture of how close Rovers came to denying the home side a fifth consecutive clean sheet at Turner’s Cross.

Sean Kavanagh fired a shot narrowly wide from just outside the box in the first half, Luke Byrne headed against the crossbar from a corner in the 82nd minute, and Dan Carr had efforts in each half blocked by important interventions from Aaron Barry and then Shane Griffin.

“In the first 20/25 minutes we had to sort of make sure that we didn’t give away any chances,” said Caulfield. “But I think overall if you look at the 90 minutes, Mark McNulty had no save to make. Young McCarthy was in at right-back, young McLoughlin at centre-back, and defensively we were really solid. Graham [Cummins] did very well for the penalty. Obviously his header came off the post, he reacted quickly and was taken down.

“Overall in the second half we were really good and we should have put the game out of sight. We had three glorious chances, possibly four, but when it’s 1-0 you’re always living on the edge a bit. It was a big win for us and a clean sheet.”

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