Dundalk ease to victory over Cork City as John Cotter gets a reality check
Cork City 0 Dundalk 2
Cork City’s decline has dented the status of a fixture that had seismic implications for the past five seasons.
Trips to Turner’s Cross tend to be uncomfortable for Dundalk but this was a different story.
This routine success keeps Vinny Perth’s side top of the table, 18 points ahead of the eighth-placed Leesiders.
Back-to-back wins for Cork’s caretaker boss John Cotter had lifted the mood, yet this exercise was a reality check.
Granted, the unavailability of key men Gearóid Morrissey, Garry Buckley and Dan Casey weakened the spine of the side.
The replacements worked hard, while lacking the cohesion of the champions.
And they stiffened their task considerably with a sloppy early concession that left them playing catch-up from the outset.
After a set-piece broke down, Patrick McEleney sold Daire O’Connor before releasing a shot that was weakly palmed away by Mark McNulty with left-back Dean Jarvis on hand to notch his first league goal for the club.
The away side were comfortable enough in the early exchanges with the Leesiders missing the combative presence of Morrissey in the centre of the park.
And Dundalk were presented with a chance to double the lead when Seán Murray was felled in the box by a clumsy Garry Comerford challenge.
After a long delay due to scrummaging at the edge of the area, and a dispute over whether the ball was on the spot, Patrick Hoban’s subsequent attempt struck the post.
That galvanised Cork and Dundalk had to rely on some good fortune and good goalkeeping to maintain their advantage to the interval.
The unmarked Graham Cummins headed over from a O’Connor cross, before getting a chance to atone for the miss when Dundalk’s defence switched off from a throw.
After doing everything right in the build-up, his shot was blocked by Gary Rogers.
That was Cork’s window to strike and Dundalk regained control from the restart.
Just after the watching Nottingham Forest assistant Roy Keane had returned to his seat, they doubled their lead with the unhurried McEleney finding Seán Gannon with his cross duly headed home by John Mountney.
That drained the intensity from proceedings. A youthful Cork side did threaten sporadically with English playmaker James Tilley impressing in spells, but there were phases of play that were far too open for a game that is traditionally tight.
Mountney’s joy was dampened by a second yellow, but Dundalk got through ten minutes with ten men to see this one out.
Cork – McNulty; Boylan, McCarthy, McLoughlin, Comerford; McCormack, K O’Connor; D O’Connor, Tilley, Sheppard; Cummins (Crowley 76).
Dundalk – Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Cleary, Jarvis; Shields; Mountney, Murray (Flores 70), McEleney, (Massey 88) Duffy; Hoban (G Kelly 81).
Ref – R Rogers (Dublin)