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Sunday 5 February 2023 Dublin: -3°C
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Cork City go 6 points clear at the top with another win over Dundalk
The champions took on the pace-setters this afternoon in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.

Fans make their way into Turners Cross Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Cork City 2
Dundalk 1

Paul Dollery reports from Turner’s Cross

CORK CITY CONTINUED their faultless start to the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division season this afternoon at home to the champions.

In front of a sell-out crowd of 6,746 on a glorious day on Leeside, a first-half brace from Karl Sheppard gave City their sixth league win from as many games in 2017.

Garry Buckley and Chris Shields Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

In spite of a 73rd-minute goal from Dundalk substitute David McMillan, it was also a sixth victory for the FAI Cup holders from their last seven meetings with Stephen Kenny’s side, who now trail John Caulfield’s table-toppers by six points in their bid for a fourth consecutive title.

Cork City made two changes from last weekend’s win away to Shamrock Rovers. With club captain Johnny Dunleavy ruled out, Alan Bennett returned at the heart of the defence and wore the armband as Greg Bolger also remains sidelined. Karl Sheppard started in attack in place of the injured Steven Beattie.

Dundalk’s only change from their home victory against St Patrick’s Athletic saw Chris Shields replace Conor Clifford in midfield. Brian Gartland captained the team again in the absence of regular skipper Stephen O’Donnell.

Cork fans with a banner in memory of Derry City captain Ryan McBride Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Dundalk got a scare inside the opening minute of this game. When Sean Gannon played a careless pass back to goalkeeper Gary Rogers, Sean Maguire intercepted but he was unable to punish the visitors from a difficult angle.

Opportunities were scarce in a feisty opening quarter between these two rivals. Dundalk lost Robbie Benson with just over five minutes played due to a hamstring injury, which gave former Chelsea youth team captain Conor Clifford an early chance to impress. But Clifford’s afternoon was also cut short due to a potential concussion when he took a smack of the ball to the face early in the second half.

Having only featured in defence for City so far this season, Conor McCormack positioned himself in front of the back four to keep tabs on Dundalk’s influential playmaker Patrick McEleney, who looked to have found the head of John Mountney with a sublime cross in the 21st minute. However, Kevin O’Connor was on hand to make a vital interception.

Gearoid Morrissey and Chris Shields Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Moments later, the hosts hit the front. City regained possession from a Dundalk attack, with Stephen Dooley releasing Maguire down the left. The in-form striker got to the by-line and squared the ball for Sheppard, who finished neatly at the St Anne’s End from close range.

Dundalk had a claim for a penalty turned down in the 35th minute. Michael Duffy’s shot was spilled by Mark McNulty, Ciaran Kilduff reacted quickest to the rebound before going down as the City goalkeeper reached for the ball, but referee Rob Rogers wasn’t convinced.

The home side doubled their lead in the 37th minute and again it was Maguire who teed up Sheppard. Maguire carved open the Dundalk defence with an excellent pass, allowing Sheppard to take the ball beyond Gary Rogers and finish to an empty net.

Mark McNulty celebrates his side's first goal Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

It looked like Dundalk had pulled a goal back just before the interval when Kilduff headed home from a corner, but the whistle had already blown for a push by the time the ball was in the net.

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There was an increased sense of urgency about Dundalk after the restart and they signalled their determination to get back into the game with three minutes of the second half played, as Duffy forced McNulty to make a good save from an effort from just outside the box.

Just shy of the hour-mark, Maguire had a chance to score for the eighth successive game. The former Dundalk striker was played through by Garry Buckley but was forced wide by Paddy Barrett, who then deflected Maguire’s effort out for a corner.

Jimmy Keohane and Michael Duffy Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Dundalk redoubled their efforts to find a goal when striker David McMillan was introduced for John Mountney. McMillan made an almost immediate impact, steering the ball beyond the reach of McNulty with his left foot after being teed up by Kilduff with 17 minutes remaining.

Despite some late Dundalk pressure, an equaliser never materialised and the Louth side’s woes were compounded with five minutes of normal time left on the clock when Kilduff was dismissed after being shown a second yellow card for a foul on McCormack.

CORK CITY: Mark McNulty; Jimmy Keohane, Ryan Delaney, Alan Bennett, Kevin O’Connor; Conor McCormack; Garry Buckley (Achille Campion, 76), Gearoid Morrissey; Karl Sheppard, Sean Maguire (Connor Ellis, 90), Stephen Dooley.

DUNDALK: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Paddy Barrett, Brian Gartland, Dane Massey; John Mountney (David McMillan, 69) Chris Shields, Robbie Benson (Conor Clifford, 8, inj) (Thomas Stewart, 53, inj), Michael Duffy; Patrick McEleney; Ciaran Kilduff.

Referee: Rob Rogers

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