Cork City down Dundalk to strike early blow in title race
A Karl Sheppard brace at Turner’s Crossmoves Leesiders six clear of champions
Cork City goalkeeper Mark McNulty celebrates his side’s second goal in their 2-1 win over champions Dundalk. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Cork City 2 Dundalk 1
A pair of first-half goals from Karl Sheppard helped to put Cork City six points clear of SSE Airtricity League of Ireland Premier Division champions Dundalk as the hosts triumphed in brilliant sunshine at Turner’s Cross on Saturday.
Strikes in the 22nd and 37th minutes from the winger – both brilliantly set up by centre forward Seán Maguire – had the Rebel Army in a comfortable position at half-time, but a goal from sub David McMillan had Dundalk back in contention with 17 minutes of normal time left.
Stephen Kenny’s side suffered a blow, though, when Ciarán Kilduff was sent off for a second bookable offence on 85 minutes and while they pressed for an equaliser, the well-disciplined hosts held out, to the delight of manager John Caulfield.
“From our own point of view, we came into the game and wanted to improve on last week,” he said.
“We had a really good first half, we did a lot of work all week in the areas we felt were causing us a lot of trouble. We went in 2-0, you were looking at a game where we were well in control and we were seeing if we could get a third to push on and kill the game.
“In fairness to McMillan, he got a great goal and all of a sudden they were throwing the kitchen sink but we showed a lot of resilience, lads dug in really well. It was a good three points, especially without players like John Dunleavy, Greg Bolger and Steven Beattie. ”
Caulfield deserves praise for the way he approached the game tactically. Conor McCormack, who has featured at right back thus far, was brought into midfield to shackle Patrick McEleney and produced a great performance, with Gearóid Morrissey alongside him also impressing.
Jimmy Keohane displayed his versatility by filling in at right back while Kevin O’Connor maintained his good form on the other flank of the defence.
Dundalk had a lot of the early play without much cutting edge, but City were far from being overrun. Good Seán Gannon defending was needed to prevent Stephen Dooley getting a sight of goal on 20 minutes but soon after that the hosts had the lead. Dooley’s ball down the left found Maguire and he carried it into the area, squaring for Sheppard to tap in after he had made a great run.
Michael Duffy went close for Dundalk twice after that, but eight minutes before half-time City’s lead was doubled. Maguire’s reverse pass behind Dane Massey allowed Sheppard to nip in and he finished after going past goalkeeper Gary Rogers.
A third goal never looked like materialising in the second half, but City didn’t look like conceding either, until McMillan netted with a lovely low shot from Kilduff’s lay-off. This changed the dynamic as Dundalk came forward with renewed impetus, but the loss of Kilduff hampered them and City’s pressing was highly effective.
Massey and McMillan both had half-chances, but City were not to be denied.
CORK CITY: McNulty; Keohane, Bennett, Delaney, O’Connor; Morrissey, McCormack; Sheppard, Buckley (Campion, 76 mins), Dooley (Griffin, 90 mins); Maguire (Ellis, 90 mins).
DUNDALK: Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Barret, Masssey; Shields, Benson (Clifford, 7 mins; Stewart 52 mins); Mountney, McEleney, Duffy; Kilduff.
Referee: R Rogers (Dundalk).