Cork City 4-1 Drogheda United
A Billy Dennehy hat-trick helped move Cork City back to within four points of SSE Airtricity League Premier Division leaders Dundalk following a 4-1 victory over Drogheda United at Turner’s Cross.
In a game that was rescheduled because of the home side’s upcoming Europa League fixtures, it was Drogheda that went ahead early on in the first half thanks to a lovely finish from Lee Duffy.
However, the Leesiders were a much-improved outfit after the break, and a hat-trick from Dennehy - along with a third game in two games from Karl Sheppard - saw all three points stay in Cork despite the efforts of a hard-working Drogheda side.
Having reached the final whistle with nine men after Shane Dunne was shown a straight red and Alan Byrne received two yellows, Drogheda's misery was compounded when Daryl Kavanagh was sent off after the full-time whistle for a discussion with the referee.
John Caulfield made one change from the team that started their last league fixture with Dennehy returning on the wing in place of Kieran Djilali, who dropped to the bench.
John McDonnell, meanwhile, brought in Cathal Brady and Shane Dunne and despite both teams’ recent respective league form, it was the visitors who looked the more dangerous of the two sides in the opening exchanges.
Cork went seven games without conceding a single goal at one stage earlier in the season but injuries to captain John Dunleavy and Alan Bennett have left them somewhat exposed and they have now leaked goals in four of their last five games.
It was little surprise then that former Cork player Kavanagh came wearing his shooting boots, forcing Mark McNulty to gather a long-range effort with just two minutes gone.
Sheppard, likewise, was a bundle of energy and burst through on Micheál Schlingermann’s goal at the other end, winning a corner in the process.
The set piece was a lofted effort from the boot of Colin Healy but Schlingermann gathered easily, and his long clearance kick set three of his own players away in attack.
Kavanagh took up possession on the edge of the Cork penalty area but instead of testing McNulty directly, he picked out Brady on the opposite side of the goal with a lovely ball. That left three Drogs against two City men, and it was the unmarked Duffy that eventually lashed the ball home.
The home crowd of 2,142 were stunned, and then relieved that the scoreline didn’t get even worse three minutes later. Another superb ball from Kavanagh found Sean Brennan lurking to the left of McNulty’s goal, and it took an excellent save from Cork’s netminder to prevent an even bigger deficit.
The home side responded with a long-range effort from Holohan in the 14th minute, and it was the former Drogs star that almost helped City back on level terms shortly before the interval.
The midfielder provided a pin-point perfect pass to Sheppard; the striker took one touch and then another as he opted to go around Schlingermann. The latter, however, got the smallest of touches to knock the ball away for a corner.
The chance was City’s first real effort on target and in-form Mark O’Sullivan followed it up with another decent effort two minutes later - only for Schlingermann to make a fantastic save at his near post.
Caulfield sent him men out of the dressing room early for the second half and had the outfield players complete a series of warm-up drills before the action resumed. Whatever was said did the trick as City were back on level terms within nine minutes.
Under pressure from Holohan, Byrne handled the ball just outside his own box and when the free kick was eventually taken, Dennehy curled it around the wall with Schlingermann rooted to his spot.
The Kerry winger floated a second set piece into the Drogs area in as many minutes to cause more havoc - but O’Sullivan just couldn’t make contact at the back post.
Dennehy went on to play a critical part in City’s second - providing the corner kick that allowed Sheppard fire home from close range and bring his tally for the season to date to six goals.
United were reduced to ten men on 71 minutes - Dunne, booked for a high challenge on Holohan earlier in the game, was shown a straight red by referee Paul McLaughlin for a late tackle on John Kavanagh.
And it wouldn’t be the final time the Donegal man pulled a card from his back pocket either. Byrne, already booked for the handball that led to City’s first goal, blocked substitute Garry Buckley’s attempted shot ten minutes later and received his second caution, followed by a red.
Dennehy was quick to grab the ball, and duly slotted the spot kick home to his right. The midfielder then capped a fine individual performance with a third goal in the fourth minute of added time. Perhaps saving the best until last, Dennehy fired a long-range effort neatly into the right bottom corner of Schlingermann’s goal to secure all three points.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; John Kavanagh, Dan Murray, Darren Dennehy, Kevin O’Connor; Billy Dennehy, Colin Healy, Liam Miller (Garry Buckley ’80), Gavan Holohan; Karl Sheppard (Danny Morrissey ’69), Mark O’Sullivan (Liam Kearney ’85).
Substitutes: Kieran Djilali, Alan Smith, Michael McSweeney, Rob Lehane.
Drogheda Utd: Michéal Schlinermann; Mick Daly, Alan Byrne, Joe Gorman, Jason Marks; Lee Duffy (Tiernan Mulvenna’83), Shane Dunne, Mark Hughes, Cathal Brady (Carl Walshe ’65); Sean Brennan (Sean Thornton ’37), Daryl Kavanagh.
Substitutes: Evin Farrell, Robert O’Reilly, Sam McGowan, Lloyd Buckley.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin