Clinical Cork extend perfect start after hard-fought win
St Patrick's Athletic 0 Cork City 3
The perfect ten for Cork City, although the most impressive aspect of the win that extended their 100pc start to the season is that they achieved it without playing particularly well.
That's a good habit to develop; every title contender needs that ability and for the second successive week in Dublin the Leesiders showcased it. If a team can play below their best and triumph by a three-goal margin, they must be doing something right.
St Patrick's Athletic gave John Caulfield's side plenty of problems, yet the visitors passed another test to maintain their nine-point lead at the top.
Granted, there was an element of good fortune about it. The away side were slow to celebrate the goal that gave them the lead early in the second half because they appeared to be confused about how the ball found its way past goalkeeper Conor O'Malley - later confirmed to be an own goal from Josh O'Hanlon.
A free-kick that looked to ricochet off a St Pat's player in a crowded box was the source of the delayed reaction with none of the visiting players taking the credit.
That gave Cork the platform they needed to go and close the game out, and they eventually did so clinically with late efforts from Karl Sheppard and Garry Buckley putting a flattering look on the scoreline.
Preston manager Simon Grayson had departed by that point. He was an interested spectator - in tandem with the club's special advisor Peter Ridsdale - with the Championship side interested in adding Sean Maguire to their large Irish contingent.
But Cork's star attacker was subdued reasonably well by the experienced Gavin Peers for the first hour of this match before finding the space to really make an impact.
Maguire's early struggles were indicative of how a young Saints outfit had managed to get a foothold in the game. Liam Buckley went with a more youthful midfield than his preferred options in Galway last week and the industry and energy of Lee Desmond, Sam Verdon and Darragh Markey helped to match Cork in that department.
Chances were scarce before the interval and, in the period just before it, the Leesiders were starting to run low on ideas and concentrating on long diagonals in an attempt to shift play up the park.
They did threaten from a set-piece, with defender Ryan Delaney hitting the post via a deflection, but the hosts were their equal in the opening 45 and created a couple of half chances without ever threatening to execute a killer final ball. Kurtis Byrne did give Mark McNulty something to do with a free-kick.
The key moment just after the hour mark when Conor McCormack won a contested free and Kevin O'Connor's delivery bounced its way into the net with sub John Dunleavy - who came in when skipper Alan Bennett limped off - involved in the scramble.
Buckley's side continued to impress and a brilliant stop from Mark McNulty denied ex-City winger Billy Dennehy. Markey also threatened from the edge of the area after a break.
But Ian Bermingham did cynically halt one Maguire advance and O'Connor struck a free against the post before the insurance goal; Maguire dropped to the edge of the box to release Sheppard whose left-footer was too strong for O'Malley.
The best was saved for last with a counter involving another sub, Shane Griffin, culminating with a delightful dink from Buckley that dropped just under the crossbar.