Morrissey sends Cork into dream cup decider
Bray Wanderers 0-1 Cork City
For Cork City, this victory was never going to prompt a serious post-mortem.
The Leesiders travelled to Bray for an FAI Cup semi-final that was simply about getting the job done.
None of their meetings with the Seagulls this term have featured more than one goal, so it was no surprise that Danny Morrissey's strike on the hour mark was enough to break the stubborn resistance of the hosts.
Mick Cooke's men did push hard in a late rally and he felt that they had done enough to deserve a replay. But, once the final whistle was blown, Cork's followers immediately started to sing songs about a Dundalk side that they are determined to take down.
And, with all due respect to Longford and Bray, this has been a good weekend for the organisers of the competition. They have their dream final.
On November 8, the top two teams in the country will resume rivalries at the Aviva Stadium in a climax to the season that should compensate for Dundalk's dominance in the league removing the drama that was present last term when John Caulfield's men suffered a painful final-night defeat in Oriel Park.
Caulfield's appointment has galvanised Cork and he was rewarded for progress by signing a new contract earlier this week. However, Dundalk have proved to be his Achilles heel, and you sense that he is desperate to inflict some pain on Stephen Kenny's double chasers.
"They're a fantastic team," he said. "A phenomenal team that have pushed the bar higher this year, with a great manager.
"At the same time, we're probably the one team they may not want in a final.
"I suppose it's the final everyone wants. Dundalk are a super team and I suppose it's a question of if we can go that bit further and give them a game on the day - which I believe we can."
Caulfield laughed when asked about the cup fever that should sweep his neck of the woods over the next month, quipping that he is already accustomed to being told what his best team should be.
That's what comes with the territory in a place where his success has bred increased expectations and a good deal of criticism too as Cork have struggled to keep up with Dundalk.
"We all want more, we're all greedy," says Caulfield, "I'm like the fans. I'm the biggest critic of all - I want to win things. All I can do is make the club better than when I came in.
"I'm passionate about the club. It's not my job - it's my passion.
"I think it's progression. I keep saying this, Cork is the biggest club in Ireland, Rovers might have the trophies but crowd-wise, following, media, we're the biggest club and that's just the way it is.
"The pressure is massive. Last year probably put us under extra pressure because people automatically assumed we would win (the league) this year.
"We've won two leagues in our history. From my point of view, it was about staying near the top, getting into Europe and challenging for trophies
"At the end of the day, we can win the cup. If someone said two years ago, we'd be in Europe the next two years (a top four league finish will be enough for a European slot, so this win helped Shamrock Rovers and St Pat's too) and a cup final, we'd have snatched their hand off."
Some tension was apparent in a first half where Bray allowed Cork to have the ball and managed to contain them reasonably well. With Dan Murray selected as a holding midfielder in Colin Healy's absence, the favourites kept the ball but were short on incision, with Karl Sheppard wasting their only clear-cut opening.
Bray, shorn of the suspended David Cassidy, fared slightly better on the counter, with Adam Hanlon shooting straight at Mark McNulty and Ryan McEvoy overclubbing when a Chris Lyons run caused Cork grief.
Crucially, Cork resumed after the interval with real purpose with the pace of lone striker Morrissey breaching the Bray defensive line.
He shot into the side netting before Garry Buckley drew a fine stop from Peter Cherrie, but the injury-plagued attacker was beginning to feel pain in his hamstring as the hour mark approached.
He gave it a few more minutes and that proved vital as he anticipated a flick from Buckley, left Alan McNally in his trail and found the bottom corner just as his body gave up.
"Once I hit it, my leg just seized up and it cramped everywhere and that was it for me," he admitted.
The 21-year-old limped off to be replaced by John O'Flynn, with a header from the newcomer tipped to safety by Cherrie as Cork looked to end the game as a contest in a spell where they were well on top.
That momentum was lost, though, as a Bray group that have battled through adversity in a turbulent season displayed their fighting qualities.
Cooke made three changes and Emeka Omwubiko's arrival for the last ten minutes posed difficulties for Cork. Centre-half Alan Bennett, celebrating his 34th birthday, was twice in the right place to block Lyons efforts.
But the entire Cork rearguard switched off as Omwubiko ghosted to the back post for a close-range volley that lacked the power to beat McNulty. City would survive the nervous conclusion.
"It's a cup semi final, what would you expect?" shrugged Caulfield, "Bray have been underestimated. I knew coming here it would take a huge effort."
The performance level will have to raise several notches in what should be a thrilling decider.
Bray Wanderers - Cherrie, Douglas, McNally, Cooney, Barker; Kelly; Hanlon (Omwubiko 80), Fitzpatrick (Scully 75), McEvoy, Wixted (McGlynn 65); Lyons
Cork City - McNulty, Dunleavy, Bennett, D Dennehy, Gaynor; Murray, Miller (Holohan 81); B Dennehy (O'Connor 75), Buckley, Sheppard; Morrissey (O'Flynn 60)
Ref - N Doyle (Dublin)