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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 17 December, 2018
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Sadlier's late goal direct from a corner gives 10-man champions a winning start

City had been pegged back by St Pat’s at Richmond Park after taking an early two-goal lead.

Graham Cummins scores a goal Graham Cummins scores Cork City's second goal. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

St Patrick’s Athletic 2
Cork City 3

Paul Dollery reports from Richmond Park

CORK CITY BEGAN their defence of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division title with a dramatic victory over St Patrick’s Athletic in front of a 2,771 attendance tonight in Inchicore.

Kieran Sadlier scored directly from a corner in the 82nd minute to seal all three points for the champions, although at times they probably would have been happy to settle for just one.

New signings Barry McNamee and Graham Cummins had them 2-0 in front after just 11 minutes, but a straight red card shown to Cummins in the 26th minute changed the complexion of the game, which was played in challenging conditions as heavy rain fell throughout the opening half at Richmond Park.

An own goal from Aaron Barry left Pat’s within touching distance at the break, and they were level less than a minute into the second half thanks to Conan Byrne. Led by tireless captain Conor McCormack, City defended bravely as Pat’s used their numerical advantage effectively and dominated possession. However, it was Sadlier who had the final say.

For his side’s first competitive outing of 2018, Pat’s manager Liam Buckley included four debutants in his starting line-up. Former Shamrock Rovers right-back Simon Madden was joined in defence by Kevin Toner, who has Premier League experience with Aston Villa. Ryan Brennan, ex-Bray Wanderers, was selected in midfield, with his injured brother Killian marked absent. Christy Fagan also missed out due to illness so Ian Turner fronted the attack, with Dean Clarke starting in a wide role following his off-season arrival from Limerick.

Kieran Salier tackled by Ryan Brennan Kieran Sadlier tackled by Ryan Brennan. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

John Caulfield made three personnel changes to his team from last Sunday’s President’s Cup triumph over Dundalk. Having been granted compassionate leave after the death of his close friend Liam Miller, Mark McNulty returned in goal to replace Peter Cherrie. Steven Beattie was named at right-back at the expense of Colm Horgan, while right-winger Karl Sheppard came in for Gearoid Morrissey, with Jimmy Keohane reverting to midfield.

That meant there were City league debuts for defender Aaron Barry and midfielder Barry McNamee, who both joined from Derry City during the winter. After his move from St Johnstone, Graham Cummins also made his first Premier Division appearance for the Leesiders after spending two seasons with the club in the First Division prior to leaving for Preston North End in 2012.

The hosts made a bright start, with McNulty forced into an early save when Barry’s attempted headed clearance from a corner almost ended up in his own net. Just moments later, however, the visitors were in the ascendancy.

Sheppard broke free and released Cummins down the right. His cross to the back post found McNamee unmarked and the Donegal native finished neatly with a left-footed volley with just under three minutes on the clock.

Pat’s responded well and continued to have the better of the opening exchanges despite falling behind. McNulty was called into action again to deny both Graham Kelly and Conan Byrne, but John Caulfield’s side doubled their advantage on 11 minutes when Sheppard’s flick-on found Cummins, whose emphatic volleyed finish left Barry Murphy with no chance.

Cummins was also central to the game’s next major talking point. After challenging for the ball in the air with Toner, the Pat’s defender went down. As Toner’s team-mates reacted angrily, referee Robert Harvey produced a red card for the City striker for an apparent elbow.

Kevin Toner receives medical attention Kevin Toner receiving attention after the incident with Graham Cummins. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Caulfield subsequently reverted to a 4-4-1, with Sheppard up front. He came close to scoring a third shortly afterwards but fired wide from close range after being teed up by Sadlier.

Other than that, it was one-way traffic in favour of Pat’s until the interval following the dismissal of Cummins. In the 34th minute, Liam Buckley’s side opened their account for the new season courtesy of one of City’s new signings. When Byrne curled in a corner from the left, Barry inadvertently beat McNulty as he attempted to clear the danger.

With the momentum behind the Saints and the home support sensing vulnerability in the champions, the teams were level just 40 seconds after the restart. City failed to deal adequately with Ian Bermingham’s cross, allowing Byrne to apply a tidy finish. The equalising goal was no more than Pat’s deserved for their dominance.

They continued to control the game thereafter, although without creating many goalscoring opportunities. Clarke volleyed over from a nice ball by Owen Garvan, before Ian Turner was also off target when he attempted to score with a bicycle kick against his former club.

City went close with a similar effort after a rare jaunt forward moments later. Alan Bennett’s overhead kick was heading towards the bottom corner until it deflected wide off a Pat’s defender.

New arrival Jake Keegan came off the bench for his debut and had a good chance to put Pat’s in front. However, his close-range effort was obstructed by a crucial intervention from Shane Griffin with 10 minutes of normal time remaining. A winning goal did eventually arrive, but it went the way of the Leesiders.

Kieran Salier celebrates after the first goal Kieran Sadlier was the hero for Cork City. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Sadlier has been tipped to be one of the stars of this SSE Airtricity League season and this might have been one of the most valuable goals he’ll score all year. The 23-year-old former West Ham trainee curled in a right-footed corner-kick from the left-hand side and the ball somehow ended up creeping over the line to give the champions a victory that seemed unlikely for most of the game.

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, Kevin Toner, Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham; Owen Garvan, Ryan Brennan; Conan Byrne, Graham Kelly (Darragh Markey, 65), Dean Clarke (James Doona, 78); Ian Turner (Jake Keegan, 65).

CORK CITY: Mark McNulty; Steven Beattie, Alan Bennett, Aaron Barry, Shane Griffin; Conor McCormack, Jimmy Keohane (Gearoid Morrissey, 66); Karl Sheppard, Barry McNamee, Kieran Sadlier; Graham Cummins.

Referee: Robert Harvey

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Paul Dollery

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