Waterford topple the champions as feisty Munster derby ends with six dismissals

There was no shortage of drama at the RSC as the Blues moved up to second by defeating Cork City.

Conor McCormack and Courtney Duffus Waterford's Courtney Duffus and Conor McCormack of Cork City battle for possession. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Waterford 2
Cork City 1

Paul Dollery reports from the RSC

PREMIER DIVISION CHAMPIONS Cork City released their grip on top spot this evening as they suffered their second defeat of the season despite taking an early lead away to 2017 First Division winners Waterford.

A memorable victory for the hosts ended with an unsavoury brawl which saw four players shown red cards, while both managers — Waterford’s Alan Reynolds and City’s John Caulfield — were also ordered off by referee Rob Rogers.

City hit the front in the second minute through defender Conor McCarthy, but an own goal early in the second half from Conor McCormack levelled the game. Alan Reynolds’ side emerged victorious from a hotly-contested Munster derby when Izzy Akinade lifted the ball beyond Mark McNulty with 10 minutes remaining.

Dundalk, who were 2-1 winners over Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park, have subsequently overtaken City at the summit of the table. After maintaining their unblemished home record, Waterford move up to second — only trailing Dundalk on goal difference — while Cork City drop back to third place after leaving empty-handed from a game which attracted a crowd of 3,684.

The Waterford team showed two changes in personnel from their victory in Limerick last weekend. With John Kavanagh unavailable due to the terms of his loan agreement from Cork, Garry Comerford started at right-back. In attack, Izzy Akinade returned at the expense of John Martin. Cork’s only change from their away win against Bray Wanderers saw Garry Buckley restored to the midfield in place of Jimmy Keohane.

Facing the champions and their neighbours at a packed RSC, this was the kind of occasion Waterford aspired to while spending the past decade in the second tier of Irish football. However, it got off to a nightmare start for the home side.

Izzy Akinade and Gearoid Morrissey Izzy Akinade of Waterford tangles with Cork City's Gearoid Morrissey. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

With just over a minute on the clock, Graham Cummins won a free-kick for City wide on the right, which Barry McNamee delivered to the far post. The head of Aaron Barry directed the ball back across the face of goal, allowing Conor McCarthy to tap home from close range.

While both teams could be accused of sloppy play early on, Waterford — much to the frustration of Alan Reynolds — were particularly careless in possession at times. With the wind at their backs for the first 45 minutes, they spent plenty of time in their opponents’ third of the pitch but failed to ask any serious questions of Mark McNulty.

Paul Keegan couldn’t keep his free-kick down after Conor McCormack was booked for fouling Courtney Duffus on the edge of the box. McNulty made his only real save of the first half when Akinade had an attempt from 25 yards out, which was straightforward for the City goalkeeper as Sean McLoughlin’s deflection took the sting out of the shot.

City also had chances to double their lead during a relatively even open period. Barry and Kieran Sadlier both saw headers go wide, while Waterford defender Dave Webster had a nervy moment when it looked like his attempted clearance might end up in his own net.

There appeared to be an increased sense of purpose about Waterford after the restart and they were level six minutes in. Former Cork City midfielder Gavan Holohan drilled in a dangerous low cross from the right. The ball struck City captain Conor McCormack, who could do little other than watch it trickle beyond the reach of McNulty.

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That sparked the home support into life and they almost saw their team go in front on the hour mark when Dylan Barnett teed up Duffus, but the in-form striker was unable to keep his powerful volley on target.

Waterford players celebrate after Izzy Akinade's goal Waterford players celebrate after Izzy Akinade's winning goal. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

With the game being played at a frenetic pace, Waterford were inches away from handing the lead back to the visitors just seconds later. Bastien Hery’s wayward pass across the back was intercepted by McNamee, but with just Lawrence Vigouroux to beat in the Waterford goal, the former Derry City midfielder steered his effort narrowly wide.

Hery sought to make amends moments later but his shot from just outside the box drifted wide. Barry then headed wide for City after getting his head on a Sadlier free-kick.

Waterford’s winner came in the 80th minute. Stanley Aborah marched through midfield and played the ball to his right to Akinade, whose effort beat McNulty. Duffus helped the ball towards the net but it appeared to have crossed the line before he connected.

As City sought to rescue a draw, Sadlier stung the fingertips of Vigouroux and substitute Karl Sheppard couldn’t direct a header on target. But the main flashpoint in the closing stages occurred just in front of both benches.

With City urgently trying to get the ball back during a break in play, Caulfield entered the field and attempted to take the ball from Bastien Hery. The Waterford midfielder then shoved the City boss to the ground, which sparked an ugly brawl which resulted in red cards being shown to Hery and City midfielder Garry Buckley.

Cork substitute Steven Beattie and Waterford’s Stanley Aborah — who had just been replaced by Sander Puri — were also dismissed, as were Caulfield and Alan Reynolds.

Dylan Barnett celebrates the win Jubilant Waterford defender Dylan Barnett after the game. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

WATERFORD: Lawrence Vigouroux; Garry Comerford, Kenny Browne, Dave Webster, Dylan Barnett; Paul Keegan; Bastien Hery, Stanley Aborah (Sander Puri, 90); Gavan Holohan; Izzy Akinade (Rory Feely, 86); Courtney Duffus.

CORK CITY: Mark McNulty; Conor McCarthy, Aaron Barry, Sean McLoughlin, Shane Griffin; Conor McCormack (Jimmy Keohane, 70), Gearoid Morrissey (Josh O’Hanlon, 83); Barry McNamee, Garry Buckley, Kieran Sadlier; Graham Cummins (Karl Sheppard, 74).

Referee: Rob Rogers

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Paul Dollery

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