Sadlier stars as impressive champions hit back to claim Oriel spoils
Dundalk 2 Cork City 4
John Caulfield believes Kieran Sadlier is the most talented player in the League of Ireland.
And the 23-year-old made a strong case to support that claim by inspiring a remarkable second-half comeback to claim the President's Cup and extend their winning run over Dundalk.
In a game played in extremes of weather, with Winter Olympics-style snow in the first half followed by a sunny second 45, Cork bounced back from a sloppy opening to pick holes in a makeshift Dundalk rearguard.
Poor defending allowed Ronan Murray to put a dominant Dundalk side two ahead at the interval. But Caulfield brought in Karl Sheppard and Steven Beattie at the restart and a sturdier outfit steamrolled the hosts.
Sadlier was the key figure, however. After Sheppard halved the deficit, the ex-Sligo Rovers man crossed for winter signing Barry McNamee to nod home.
Then, with 11 minutes to go, he picked the ball up 30 yards from goal and unleashed a stunning right-footer beyond Gary Rogers. Before Dundalk could recover, Sadlier had crossed for Graham Cummins to wrap it up.
It took the ex-West Ham youth a while to adjust following his summer move from Sligo.
"The guy has phenomenal talent, his skill levels are incredible," said Caulfield.
"He's come down to Cork halfway during the season and saw what being at a club like ours was like. There is a lot of pressure. He will be a joy to watch if he can deliver performances like that every week."
Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny was not too despondent afterwards, with a flu bug weakening his squad. A first-half hamstring injury for Sean Hoare was key as midfielder Chris Shields had to revert to centre-half with Brian Gartland unavailable.
The ill Robbie Benson came in to attempt to plug the gap with Hungarian Krisztian Adorjan also under the weather. "I said to Jamie McGrath at half-time, 'You're going to have to work hard because you're the only one of the midfield three without pneumonia'," said Kenny, after Cork ruthlessly exploited the space left by his attack-minded central players.
"Credit to Cork," he said. "They capitalised and we can have no complaints."
Dundalk - Rogers, Poynton, Hoare (Benson 37), Folan, Massey; Shields, Adorjan (Hoban 67); Connolly (O'Keefe 88), McGrath, Duffy; Murray
Cork City - Cherrie, Horgan (Beattie 45), Bennett, Barry, Griffin; McCormack, Morrissey (McCarthy 89); Keohane (Sheppard 45), McNamee, Sadlier (McLoughlin 90); Cummins (Adebayo-Rowling 90)
Ref - D Tomney (Dublin)