Buckley's touch of class fires Cork to league summit
Drogheda Utd 0 Cork City 1
Garry Buckley got the goal and Cork City the spoils as the Leesiders moved to the top of the table.
Yet they left it late. Just nine minutes remained when Buckley got on the end of Mark O'Sullivan's knock-down to fire a low, powerful shot past Michael Schlingermann and secure the victory.
City are now three points clear of Dundalk, their nearest challengers, who play Shamrock Rovers tomorrow.
Yet for so much of last night's game, we wondered if the presence of the former Limerick manager, Stuart Taylor, in the stands, as well as scouts from Aston Villa and Arsenal who were there to look at Brian Lenihan, would overshadow the main event.
In the end it didn't and whether Taylor, who left Limerick on Tuesday, has seen enough to persuade him to return to one of his former clubs remains to be seen. What he saw last night from the home side was impressive. Shaped around a five-man midfield, Drogheda were organised, passionate, purposeful and, ultimately, unlucky.
Fortune didn't shine on them midway through the second half when Gavin Holohan fired a thunderous shot from 25 yards which cannoned off the bar.
Had that gone in, the three points could have been theirs because by that stage of the evening, Cork were running short of ideas and energy. Even John Caulfield's late introduction of John O'Flynn, a move which was followed by a change in his system to 4-4-2, didn't look like having the desired effect.
And then, with nine minutes left on the clock, City got the goal which shot them to the top of the table.
Buckley, deservedly, can claim the credit but O'Sullivan's role cannot be underestimated. He timed his leap perfectly to direct John Dunleavy's cross into the midfielder's path and with one touch to control and a second to shoot, Cork had the goal they'd been after all night.
There were earlier chances – the best of them coming in the first half, first for O'Sullivan, who headed Josh O'Shea's cross to Schlingermann's right but the 'keeper adjusted his feet to save well – as he did 13 minutes later, when Darren Dennehy tried a long-range effort.
Drogheda had their moments too – Gavin Brennan forcing Mark McNulty into two fine saves in the first half before that Holohan shot on 60 minutes nearly broke the crossbar.
At this point a Drogheda win actually seemed likelier. But Caulfield risked a defeat by throwing on O'Flynn at the expense of midfielder David O'Leary and pressed his men forward.
Eventually the strategy met its rewards – Buckley's late goal doing enough to secure the win. Drogheda won some pride, Cork the points.
Drogheda United: Schlingermann; Doyle, McNally, Daly, Grimes (capt); Maher, Holohan; Brady (S O'Connor 72), Brennan, Walshe; O'Neill (O'Brien 72).
Cork City: McNulty; Lenihan, Kavanagh (Kearney 51), Dennehy, Dunleavy (capt); Healy, O'Leary (O'Flynn 67); Dennehy, Buckley, O'Shea (Morrison 58); O'Sullivan.
Referee: R Rogers (Dublin)