A Billy Dennehy second-half hat-trick underpinned a Cork City turnaround at Turner’s Cross.
While this victory, on the back of Friday’s win over Sligo Rovers, made it two in four days after a shaky period, John Caulfield’s men lacked fluency for much of the encounter and didn’t take control of proceedings until the second half, against a Drogheda United side which would finish with nine men.
Having trailed to Lee Duffy’s early goal at half-time, City needed a response and they found it when Gavan Holohan’s driving run at his former side’s defence yielded a free-kick in the 52nd minute.
Up stepped Dennehy to curl a lovely shot past the helpless Micheál Schlingermann, and 13 minutes later the hosts were in front. After Mark O’Sullivan’s header was deflected wide, Dennehy turned creator as Karl Sheppard steered his corner home.
Seán Thornton and Lee Dunne had equalising chances saved but the loss of Shane Dunne to a red card for a foul on John Kavanagh hampered Drogheda.
On 81 minutes, City were awarded a penalty when sub Garry Buckley’s shot was rather harshly adjudged to have been handled by Alan Byrne, who was dismissed for a second booking. Dennehy stroked home the resultant spot-kick to put the game beyond doubt and then completed his hat-trick at the death.
In the first half, though, it was a very laboured affair from the home side. They fell behind in the ninth minute when Schlingermann claimed a Colin Healy corner and cleared long to Daryl Kavanagh, who fed Cathal Brady and he in turn placed Duffy to finish from close range.
City did muster a response but they found Schlingermann in excellent form as he repelled efforts from Holohan, O’Sullivan and Sheppard. Once they got the equaliser, however, a City win always looked likely.
CORK CITY – McNulty; Kavanagh, Murray, D Dennehy, O’Connor; Healy, Miller (Buckley 79); B Dennehy, Holohan, Sheppard (Morrissey 69); O’Sullivan (Kearney 83).
DROGHEDA UNITED – Schlingermann; Daly, Byrne, Gorman, Marks; Dunne, Hughes; Brady (Walshe 64), Kavanagh, Duffy (Mulvenna 82); Brennan (Thornton 37).
Ref – P McLaughlin (Monaghan)