Cork City 3
Paul Dollery reports from Turner’s Cross
THE DOMESTIC FOOTBALL season for 2017 has begun just as its predecessor ended, with Cork City capturing silverware at Dundalk’s expense.
Sean Maguire, who struck late in extra-time to give City a 1-0 win over the Lilywhites in last November’s FAI Cup final, did the damage much earlier on this occasion, before Kevin O’Connor and Karl Sheppard put some gloss on the win.
Maguire found the net in the 16th minute tonight as John Caulfield’s side retained the President’s Cup in front of a 3,140 crowd at a rainy Turner’s Cross. O’Connor punished Dundalk with a spectacular free-kick in the 69th minute after Paddy Barrett had cynically brought down Stephen Dooley on the edge of the box. Sheppard added a third in added time.
The result is unlikely to have much of an impact on what’s to come this year, but ahead of next weekend’s Premier Division kick-off, a fifth win and clean sheet in six games against Dundalk will only serve to boost Cork City’s confidence as they look to deny Stephen Kenny’s side a fourth consecutive title.
The home side managed to keep Dundalk out despite the absence of last year’s reliable central defensive pairing. With Alan Bennett injured and Kenny Browne rumoured to be on his way to Waterford, Ryan Delaney (on loan from Burton Albion) made his debut at the heart of the defence alongside fellow newcomer Conor McCormack, who was acting as a makeshift centre-half. Caulfield also handed a debut to winger Jimmy Keohane.
Michael Duffy was the only debutant for the visitors. Kenny opted to keep new signings Jamie McGrath, Sean Hoare, Niclas Vemmelund, Conor Clifford and Steve Kinsella on the bench. Dundalk travelled south without Gary Rogers, Shane Grimes, Chris Shields and David McMillan, while the game came too soon for new arrival Thomas Stewart.
Dundalk looked set to open the scoring in the eighth minute of this game. After Patrick McEleney capitalised on a mistake by McCormack, he played Ciaran Kilduff through on goal. However, City goalkeeper Mark McNulty made an excellent save to deny the Lilywhites’ striker.
Kevin O’Connor then tested Dundalk goalkeeper Gabriel Sava with a free-kick, but the hosts did take the lead in the 16th minute. After Kilduff was dispossessed on the edge of the City box, Garry Buckley looked for Sean Maguire with a long pass over the top. Paddy Barrett struggled to deal with the bouncing ball, Maguire turned him on his left before firing through the legs of Sava with an excellent finish from a tricky angle.
John Caulfield’s side appeared to have doubled their lead 11 minutes later. When Dundalk cleared the danger from a corner, McCormack sent the ball back into the box and it ended up in the Dundalk net, again travelling through the legs of Sava. However, referee Anthony Buttimer ruled the effort out as Jimmy Keohane was deemed to have interfered with play by attempting to get his head on the ball.
Dundalk began to see more of the ball after the half-hour mark as they sought to get back on level terms. Duffy threatened with a long-range effort, but their best chance of the half fell to John Mountney in the 34th minute. He got his head on a McEleney cross from the left but McNulty produced a superb save to keep his side in front.
Maguire almost had his second goal four minutes before the interval. Following a nice interchange of passes with Buckley, the former West Ham striker rounded Sava but he could only find the side netting, once again from a difficult angle on the left.
Maguire continued to pose problems for Dundalk after the restart. First he saw a shot from the edge of the box deflected over the crossbar, then the 22-year-old forced Sava to stop a header from a corner by Stephen Dooley.
Dundalk’s best chance of a goal in the second half came in the 57th minute when Duffy broke down the left but fired his effort across the face of goal. That was as good as it got for the Louth side in a second half that lacked the intensity of the opening period.
When Barrett brought down Dooley, O’Connor stepped up and the Irish U21 international curled the resultant free-kick into the top corner, although Sava did manage to get a hand on it.
Sheppard wrapped up the win with a fine goal in the sixth minute of added time, beating Dane Massey and Barrett down the right before cutting inside and finishing emphatically.
A disappointing night for Dundalk was compounded by what looked like a serious injury for Kilduff, who was stretchered off after a clash with McNulty as the game entered added time.
Dundalk start the defence of their Premier Division title at home to Shamrock Rovers in seven days’ time. Cork City travel to Ballybofey to play Finn Harps on the same night.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Steven Beattie (Shane Griffin, 83), Conor McCormack, Ryan Delaney, Kevin O’Connor; Greg Bolger (Karl Sheppard, 65); Jimmy Keohane, Gearoid Morrissey (Connor Ellis, 87), Garry Buckley; Stephen Dooley (Conor McCarthy, 90); Sean Maguire.
Dundalk: Gabriel Sava; Sean Gannon (Niclas Vemmelund, 79), Paddy Barrett, Brian Gartland, Dane Massey; John Mountney (Steve Kinsella, 74), Robbie Benson, Stephen O’Donnell (Conor Clifford, 78), Michael Duffy (Jamie McGrath, 79); Patrick McEleney; Ciaran Kilduff (Carlton Ubaezuonu, 90).
Referee: Anthony Buttimer