Cork City make statement of intent with win over Dundalk

Champions lose first league game on the road since September 2014

Cork City’s Stephen Dooley celebrates his goal in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match against Dundalk at  Turner’s Cross. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Cork City’s Stephen Dooley celebrates his goal in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match against Dundalk at Turner’s Cross. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

Cork City 1 Dundalk 0

It was one of those nights that brought out both the best and the worst of this league. A hundred miles or so away, Athlone’s amateurs decided enough was enough and stayed at home over unpaid expenses while here at a suitably spruced up Turner’s Cross, in front of a crowd of five and a half thousand, the country’s top two sides produced a contest enthralling and dramatic enough to be a league decider. Had the result gone the other way, of course, it would have been close to one.

Instead, City injected new life into the title race with a performance full of passion, for sure, but also the sort of quick-fire precision passing we have come to associate more with Stephen Kenny’s side. Dundalk were unsettled from the outset and after having fallen behind they then lost one of their number as they did well really to keep things as tight as they did towards the end.

Late on, as they desperately piled forward in the hope of rescuing something they almost stunned their hosts by grabbing an equaliser but having hurt his old club at the other then when they met a few months ago at Oriel, Sean Maguire was on hand this time to clear off the line when Ciaran Kilduff’s header looked to be flying towards the back of the net.

Stephen Dooley was, to some extent, the local hero turned villain with the 24-year-old scoring a cracking goal in the first half before blasting a hopeless penalty over in the second while Chris Shields will shoulder a portion of the blame for the visitors’ defeat after getting himself sent off. Collectively, though, City were the better side over the 90 minutes and their third defeat of Dundalk this season will add to the belief down south that Dundalk’s third straight title is far from a done deal.

Almost incredibly, it was September 2014 since Dundalk had been beaten in a league game on the road but the locals certainly looked like a side here intent on ending the run. Greg Bolger, also against his old club, looked like a man possessed as he sought to drive them forward from deep and the champions looked as though they were riding their luck a little even from early on as City passed it nicely from defence through midfield then looked to play in Maguire or one of their wide men with a chipped ball over Kenny’s back four.

Dooley looked especially lively and he soon started to develop an appetite for running at Paddy Barrett. The right back was caught completely out of position for the goal on 26 minutes Gearoid Morrissey won possession decisively. City then broke at pace with Maguire flicking the ball on for Dooley who went past Andy Boyle before coolly finding the bottom far corner when he had looked more likely to cross.

Dundalk, predictably enough, posed a threat of their own from both flanks and Daryl Horgan left Michael McSweeney for dead on a couple of occasions but Ronan Finn was well contained and they struggled to create much by way of clear-cut chances before Shields’s sending off put the host firmly in the driving seat.

The midfielder’s challenge was fairly senseless given the lack of any imminent threat and while it may not have been as bad as it looked at first when Steven Beattie collapsed to the ground, Shields would have been very lucky to stay on the pitch.

Even without him, though, Dundalk made a spirited attempt to get themselves back into back into the game and there were moments when John Caulfield’s men seemed suddenly to doubt their ability to push on and make the game safe. They had the perfect opportunity when Boyle brought Maguire down inside the area but despite the striker having scored from the spot when the two sides last played at Oriel, Dooley took it and missed badly.

That kept Dundalk in it and they played with the character of champions through the closing stages as they sought to salvage something. They will have to keep doing so right up until then end of the campaign too, it seems, if they are to keep this Cork team at bay again.

CORK CITY: McNulty; McSweeney, Bennett, Browne, O’Connor; Morrissey, Bolger; Beattie (O’Sullivan, 83 mins), Holohan (Buckley, 60 mins), Dooley; Maguire (Healy, 90 mins).

DUNDALK: Rogers; Barrett, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; O’Donnell, Shields; Meenan (Benson, 71 mins), Finn, Horgan (McEleney, 71 mins); McMillan (Kilduff, 48 mins).

Referee: R Rogers (Dublin).

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