Cork City 4
Ben Blake reports from Oriel Park
SPECTATORS BRAVED THE elements at Oriel Park this afternoon to see Cork City lift the President’s Cup in the League of Ireland curtain-raiser.
A blizzard hit Louth just after kick-off to disrupt the flow of the game and cover the playing surface in a white blanket of snow, as the all-weather pitch was put to the test.
A first-half double from Lilywhites striker Ronan Murray, a recent arrival from Galway United, put the home side in the driving seat, but substitute Karl Sheppard halved the deficit moments after his introduction at the beginning of the second half.
Barry McNamee headed home a Kieran Sadlier cross to level terms on 56 minutes, before provider Sadlier turned goalscorer to send them in front. Graham Cummins then made sure of the result for John Caulfield’s men late on.
The country’s two top teams know each other inside out at this stage, having slugged it out for dominance over the past four years. This was their third meeting in the annual fixture between the league champions and the FAI Cup holders — or, in this case, the double winners and the runners-up in both competitions.
The two clubs have welcomed several new faces into their squads during the off-season, and fans got a glimpse of what they will bring as a total of seven recent signings lined out from the start.
In terms of injuries, captain Stephen O’Donnell (calf), John Mountney (knee) and Patrick Hoban (thigh) were missing for Dundalk, while Cork had to do without John Dunleavy (knee) and Garry Buckley (knock).
City goalkeeper Mark McNulty didn’t travel after the tragic death of childhood friend Liam Miller, who sadly passed away at the age of 36 this week. The ex-Ireland, Celtic and Manchester United midfielder spent a season with his hometown club in 2015, and he was remembered here with a minute’s silence prior to kick-off, followed by a round of applause in the 22nd minute.
The first real chance of note saw Michael Duffy head into the ground and wide after Dylan Connolly had got to the end line and put over a cross. For the visitors, Sadlier broke free and had a pop from an acute angle, but Gary Rogers made the block before collecting the loose ball.
Conditions deteriorated considerably as heavy snow continued to fall but home fans were given something to cheer about on 19 minutes as they went ahead through Murray, who finished clinically after the Cork defence had failed to clear the danger.
Sean Hoare’s injury on 37 minutes forced Stephen Kenny into a switch as Robbie Benson came into midfield and Chris Shields dropped into centre-half alongside Stephen Folan.
And Dundalk doubled their advantage moments later – Murray tried to flick on but, instead, killed it before stroking past Peter Cherrie. Jame McGrath then called the City goalkeeper into action on two occasions before the half-time whistle went.
Karl Sheppard, who turned down a move to Dundalk at the end of last season, was booed by the home fans upon his introduction after the break. But the forward shrugged off the frosty reception to begin Cork’s comeback, as hesitation by Gary Rogers allowed him to rush in and score on 49 minutes. Sheppard injured himself in the process but remained on the pitch after treatment from the medical team.
City were soon level as Barry McNamee headed in from a Sadlier ball across. The excellent Sadlier got on the scoresheet himself in sublime fashion — sending an unstoppable strike into the top corner from 30 yards on 79 minutes.
And Cummins made it 4-2 two minutes later as the new man directed another Sadlier delivery past Rogers.
DUNDALK: Gary Rogers; Georgie Poynton, Sean Hoare (Robbie Benson 37), Stephen Folan, Dane Massey (c), Chris Shields, Jamie McGrath; Dylan Connolly (Jack O’Keeffe 88), Kristjan Adorjan (Pat Hoban 67), Michael Duffy; Ronan Murray.
CORK CITY: Peter Cherrie, Colm Horgan (Steven Beattie 46), Alan Bennett, Aaron Barry, Shane Griffin; Conor McCormack (c), Gearoid Morrissey (Conor McCarthy 89); Jimmy Keohane (Karl Sheppard 46), Barry McNamee, Kieran Sadlier (Sean McLoughlin 89); Graham Cummins (Tobi Adebayo-Rowling 89).
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