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'There was something going on with one of our players and we tried to defuse the situation'

Cork City manager John Caulfield was sent off at half-time in last night’s defeat to Dundalk.

John Cotter Cork City assistant manager John Cotter. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CORK CITY ASSISTANT manager John Cotter admitted after last night’s defeat to Dundalk that the Lilywhites will be worthy champions at the end of the 2018 season.

A third-minute Chris Shields goal saw Dundalk open up a nine-point lead at the top of the table, which they can stretch to 12 by winning their game in hand against Derry City on Tuesday.

With just four rounds of fixtures remaining, Cork City have been forced to accept that their reign as SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions is coming to an end.

The Leesiders, who have lost three consecutive league games, must now focus on their defence of the FAI Cup, which resumes with a semi-final against Bohemians at Dalymount Park a week from tomorrow.

“It was just one of those nights where things didn’t come off for us and we probably didn’t play as well as we could have. Dundalk have probably won the league tonight and fair play to them,” Cotter said.

“They’ve deserved it over the eight/nine months of the season. Hats off to them. But we have a big week coming up and we need to try and get ourselves going for the cup semi-final.”

Cotter addressed the media last night instead of John Caulfield, who had to watch the second half from the PA box at the back of the Donie Forde Stand. The City boss was sent off at half-time by referee Neil Doyle amid reports of a bust-up in the dressing room area.

John Caulfield after being sent to the stands by referee Neil Doyle John Caulfield watching the second half of Cork City's defeat to Dundalk last night. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“All I saw when I was coming towards the end of the tunnel was that there was a few people involved with Dundalk who wouldn’t have been involved in the game tonight, as such,” Cotter said.

“There was something going on with one of our players and we tried to defuse the situation and get our players into the dressing room. All we know is that a couple of minutes before we were going back out, John was sent off.”

Stephen Kenny was unable to shed any light on the situation from a Dundalk perspective, insisting that he wasn’t present when the incident took place.

“I’d rather not comment on it, to be honest,” said the Dundalk manager. “I’d be lying if I said I had seen it anyway. I didn’t see a punch or anything in that regard. I was on my way into the dressing room.”

On a night when the scoreline didn’t do justice to Dundalk’s superiority, Kenny was thrilled with his players after they ended a run of seven games without a win at Turner’s Cross, which stretched back to April 2015.

“It’s a big win for us, a significant win,” he said. “It was an important game for us, without a shadow of a doubt. To come down and win in the manner that we did puts us in a great position. We’re delighted with that.

“Our record here hasn’t been good in the last couple of years. We had a really good record initially but in the last couple of years we hadn’t been able to win at all here, so it was a very important win.”

Chris Shields celebrates Dundalk goalscorer Chris Shields celebrates after their 1-0 defeat of Cork City. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

City struggled to create chances, but John Cotter felt they should have been awarded a penalty early in the game. Graham Cummins went to ground as he tussled with Brian Gartland while attempting to attack a Shane Griffin corner.

“I thought it was a blatant penalty,” Cotter said. “I haven’t seen it back yet but as Shane Griffin was lining up to strike it I could see Brian Gartland had his arm right around Graham Cummins. Graham tried to run across the six-yard box and he was pulled the whole way. For me it was a penalty anyway.”

Cotter also dismissed speculation over a falling-out between City’s management and two members of the first-team squad.

According to the assistant boss, claims that midfielder Barry McNamee and striker Josh O’Hanlon — both absent last night – were sent home from training earlier in the week are “false”, and the pair should be back in contention for next weekend’s clash with Bohs.

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Paul Dollery

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