Delight for Dundalk as Gartland goal opens six-point gap
Cork City 1 Dundalk 2
Dundalk are six points clear at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division after Brian Gartland's 85th-minute goal gave them victory over Cork City at Turner's Cross last night.
The home side had just drawn level through Darren Dennehy when a free-kick into the Cork area wasn't dealt with and defender Gartland poked home the winner following a scramble.
Gartland's strike condemned Cork to their first home league defeat since a 2-1 reversal against Shamrock Rovers in June of 2013, and few would now bet against the Lilywhites winning the league titlefor the first time in 19 years.
Following the 2-0 loss to Bohemians in their previous outing, City manager John Caulfield made four changes as Garry Buckley, Gearoid Morrissey, Josh O'Shea and new signing Ross Gaynor came in for John O'Flynn, Cillian Morrison, Brian Lenihan and the departed Iarfhlaith Davoren.
For their part, Dundalk had just the one alteration, with Ruaidhri Higgins replacing Chris Shields, and, though they were subjected to an onslaught from their hosts in the opening exchanges, too often it was too frantic from City.
Clearly keen to impress, at times the emotions ran too high when composure might have yielded better results.
The home side couldn't really test Peter Cherrie in the Dundalk goal and in the 15th minute Dundalk made them pay as they scored with their first effort.
Former City player Daryl Horgan's attempted through ball took two ricochets and then fell invitingly for Richie Towell, who was able to finish smartly from the edge of the 'D'.
Not long after that, Horgan tested his one-time team-mate Mark McNulty after linking with Patrick Hoban while Dan Murray needed to be alert to deny Hoban after the home defence were asleep from a Dundalk set-piece.
Cork did begin to threaten more towards the end of the first half, with Colin Healy going closest, the midfielder's shot from 25 yards whistling over after he had picked up a loose ball out of the Dundalk defence.
Five minutes before the break, Mark O'Sullivan was unlucky, his touch too heavy from Buckley's cross after he had headed the ball down to him.
In the final minute of normal time, however – with six yellow cards having been awarded, four to Cork, Dundalk sounded a warning as Towell wasn't far over with a half-volley following Kurtis Byrne's dangerous run.
Less than five minutes into the second half, City's Josh O'Shea couldn't control the ball after Cherrie came racing off his line only to misdirect his clearance, and the need to get something from the game was highlighted by the introduction of John O'Flynn as they changed to 4-4-2 in the 58th minute.
Dundalk never looked anything less than comfortable, though, content to let City play the ball in front of them while ensuring that Cherrie and his defence were protected for the most part.
O'Flynn felt he might have had a penalty midway through the half but contact from Dane Massey looked negligible to non-existent, and then Darren Dennehy shot well over from a 30-yard free-kick.
Another striker, Danny Morrissey, was brought in as City really went for broke, and in the 83rd minute the prayers of the sizeable home support in the Shed End were answered as Darren Dennehy was on hand at the back post to meet his brother Billy's free kick from the right.
Parity was all too fleeting, however, and Gartland struck to break Cork hearts.
Billy Dennehy did have a late free which Cherrie easily saved, and Dundalk held out to take the points and strike a massive blow in the title race.
CORK CITY – McNulty; Dunleavy, D Dennehy, Murray, Gaynor (D Morrissey 73); G Morrissey (Kearney 80), Healy; O'Shea (O'Flynn 58), Buckley, B Dennehy; O'Sullivan.
DUNDALK – Cherrie; Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Towell, Shields; Meenan (Mountney 71), Byrne (Higgins 60), Horgan (McDermott 77); Hoban.
Ref – P Sutton (Clare).