Dundalk’s crown slipping as Cork City ransack the champions
League leaders 17 matches unbeaten and 18 points clear heading into summer break
Sean Maguire was Cork City’s hat-trick hero as they beat Dundalk 3-0 at Oriel Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Sean Maguire scored a hat-trick at Oriel Park as Cork City took a huge step towards the SSE Airtricity League title with a 3-0 win over Dundalk.
John Caulfield and his players will no doubt enjoy the mid-season break, safe in the knowledge that they have one hand on the trophy after a sensational display of finishing by Maguire propelled them an incredible 18 points clear at the top of the table.
With Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane watching on, the 23-year-old gave an exhibition in how to lead the line with his movement and link-up play.
More importantly, he put an end to Dundalk’s hopes of a fourth successive title with three classy finishes to bring his tally to 16 goals in as many games.
Maguire had his ex-teammates concerned after just eight seconds. Karl Sheppard gained possession after a Dane Massey error to pick out Maguire from the byline but he flashed an effort into the side-netting.
Dundalk tried to set the pace after that and David McMillan fired a low drive wide after a Johnny Dunleavy header fell invitingly into his path.
Patrick McEleney’s reverse pass then found McMillan in space on the left of the Cork penalty area but there was nobody in a white shirt to finish his cutback.
Cork responded like champions and they drew first blood in the 19th minute. Maguire flicked the ball into Stephen Dooley and headed into the six-yard box where he swept home Sheppard’s cross.
Dundalk struggled to find their feet and Ryan Delaney had a header cleared off the line by Jamie McGrath before Massey was fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty after a Kevin O’Connor delivery came off his trailing arm.
Maguire squandered a gilt-edged opportunity to make it 2-0 when he miscued from 12 yards after Jimmy Keohane had worked the opening and the visitors almost paid the price, Massey heading wide on the stroke of half-time despite being in acres of space.
Maguire threatened again in the 48th minute, letting fly from 25-yards and forcing Gary Rogers to tip the ball around the post.
The frustration levels grew amongst the home support when McGrath screwed a shot horribly wide after turning away from Alan Bennett before Mark McNulty turned Robbie Benson’s curling drive over the top.
Maguire swung the pendulum back in Cork’s favour when he glanced home a John Dunleavy cross in the 70th minute and he put the icing on the cake by completing his hat-trick in stoppage time with a cool finish after a poor mistake by Massey.
Dundalk: Rogers; Gannon, Barrett, Vemmelund, Massey; Shields (O’Donnell 68), Benson; Duffy (Kilduff 74), McEleney, McGrath (Stewart 65); McMillan.
Cork City: McNulty; Dunleavy, Bennett, Delaney, O’Connor; Morrissey (Bolger 83), McCormack; Sheppard (Beattie 80), Keohane, Dooley (Griffin 73); Maguire.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.