Drogheda United are in the driving seat in their bid to return to the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division after inflicting a 2-0 defeat on Cobh Ramblers in the first leg of their First Division promotion play-off at St Colman’s Park.
Marc Griffin’s header and a superb strike from Gareth McCaffrey left Cobh with a mountain to climb in the return leg next Friday.
Pete Mahon’s men came agonisingly close to bringing a three-goal buffer back to United Park, as Griffin saw an effort cleared off the line with 20 minutes remaining.
The hosts edged a cagey first half, with Cobh forward Rob Lehane spurning a number of decent chances in front of goal.
Cobh’s Garry Comerford played a key role in helping Stradbally to a dramatic win in the final of the Laois GAA football championship last Sunday, but his free header from a 28th-minute corner never troubled Stephen McGuinness in the Drogheda goal.
Griffin’s shot from inside the Cobh area two minutes later was blocked, with the rebound falling to Richie Purdy, who lashed his effort wide.
In the 40th minute Shane O’Connor broke free, but the Cobh man’s composure deserted him as he blazed over the bar.
Cobh keeper Paul Hunt made the first save of the game four minutes before the break when smothering Adam Wixted’s shot from the edge of the area.
Drogheda exploded into life after the restart and dominated for long spells.
Purdy’s mazy run down the left flank culminated in a delightful cross to the back post which Griffin nodded home as Drogheda hit the front in the 60th minute.
Two minutes later, Drogheda doubled their advantage when Sean Thornton’s free-kick teed up McCaffrey, who hammered the ball home from 25 yards.
Charlie Fleming made what could yet prove to be a crucial a goal-line clearance in the 71st minute, denying Griffin a brace on the night.
Cobh Ramblers: Hunt; Fleming, Kingston, Mulcahy, Mylod; Christopher (Whelan 69), Donnellan, Comerford, McGreevy (Ellis 69); O’Connor; Lehane (O’Donnell 80)
Drogheda United: McGuinness; Deasy, Farraher, Gallagher, Dunne; Purdy, Thornton, Hyland (McKeown 85), Wixted; McCaffrey (Ashe 76), Griffin (Derek Doyle 91)
Referee: Andrew Mullally (Waterford)