Michael Duffy strikes as Dundalk secure five wins on the trot with win over Cork City
Dundalk 1 Cork City 0
FOR five straight seasons, the meetings between these sides have defined the tale of the League of Ireland title race.
It’s shaping up to be a different story this time around. This result leaves Cork City in the bottom half of the table, albeit at a very early stage of the campaign, five points behind a Dundalk side that looks set to be given more trouble by a resurgent Shamrock Rovers in their attempt to retain the crown.
Vinny Perth’s team have overcome an injury-laden start to the campaign to find some form, and they remain unbeaten.
Cork, by contrast, have lost three out of their seven games and John Caulfield’s team looked devoid of attacking ideas with a late aerial bombardment the closest they came to taking a point from this encounter. Dundalk were just that bit sharper in all departments.
The champions were comfortably the better side before the break, and deserved the goal that proved decisive.
Cork’s midfield worked hard in an initial attempt to press Dundalk and there were times when the locals went direct.
But the home side’s movement was superior to their guests and they continued to find good positions even if it wasn’t exactly total football.
Cork’s task was complicated by an early injury to Colm Horgan that resulted in Shane Griffin – who had started on the left-wing rather than left-back – moving to right-back as part of the resultant reshuffle. That pitted Griffin up against Michael Duffy, an unenviable task for a player out of position.
Dundalk threatened down that flank with Duffy shooting narrowly wide on a couple of occasions before the midway point of the half.
With Sean Hoare doing a fine Chris Shields impersonation in the centre of the park, Sean Murray and Jamie McGrath were given licence to roam.
Murray had an early shout for a penalty, while the intelligent McGrath began to pose problems.
And that was in evidence for the breakthrough which, ironically enough, came after a Cork attack broke down.
Conor McCormack was caught out of position and a favourable ricochet sent Dundalk on their way with Duffy taking possession and releasing McGrath before making his way into the box.
The interchange caught out the Leesiders with McGrath dinking the ball away from Griffin and crossing for Duffy who had ghosted to the back post to head goalwards although replays indicated that the inrushing Garry Comerford, Horgan’s replacement, helped the ball past Mark McNulty in an attempt to challenge.
Comerford was replaced at the break by Alan Bennett, with Caulfield sending centre half Conor McCarthy out to right back in an attempt to shackle Duffy. And he did fare better, although Duffy was still involved with his free kick finding Patrick Hoban with McNulty doing well to keep out the header.
Still, the inability to deliver the killer blow left Cork in contention.
Indeed, there was a spell as the match entered its final quarter where Murray and McGrath were required in deeper roles and Vinny Perth eventually replaced both of them in an attempt to see it out. The arrivals of Dean Jarvis and Cameron Dummigan meant they finished the match with three regular defenders in midfield.
They never truly looked to be in jeopardy. Unlike any lingering Cork title hopes.
DUNDALK: Rogers, Gannon, Gartland, Cleary, Massey; Hoare; D Kelly, (Dummigan 87) Murray (Murray 77), McGrath (Mountney 90), Duffy; Hoban
CORK CITY: McNulty, Horgan (Comerford 9; Bennett 45), McLoughlin, McCarthy, K O’Connor (Smith 82); Morrissey, McCormack; Sheppard, Buckley, Griffin; Cummins
REFEREE: Paul McLaughlin (Donegal)