Early gift for Cork City

Cork City 2 Derry City 1

The points gained by Cork ensured they maintained their challenge for a place in Europe and the extra spice on a day that ended full of bonhomie and good humour was provided by the quality of the goals and the identity of their opponents.

Derry, it will be recalled, beat Cork in the semi-final of the Cup and they remain the only visiting team to have won at this venue. Cork were fully conscious of that, a fact betrayed by the comments of manager Liam Murphy afterwards.

"I believe we have shown in our league matches that we are a better team than Derry" he said, "so this was a little consolation for the defeat in the Cup. What pleased me most was the manner in which we came back at them - we continued to play good football and did not start to hoof the ball at any stage."

The point was well made.

Cork have provided some lavish

entertainment at their home venue this season and this contest was a gift-box full of sparkling highlights that glistened like the sequins on a party-dress.

George O'Callaghan and John O'Flynn were again responsible for most of them, with O'Callaghan's ball-playing skill driving Derry to

distraction and O'Flynn's competitive instinct at its sharpest. The combination of both represented a captivating mix of talent that kept Derry at full-stretch.

"George is a handful for any

defence," said Murphy. "He is excellent at retaining possession and he is always capable of scoring as well

because his reactions are so sharp.

"John's work-rate will always be high because he has such enthusiasm for the game. He shows it in training and he wants to be involved in everything."

Murphy also picked out substitute Colin P O'Brien for a word when he said: "He came in last season for the first time and you can see he is a whole lot stronger now. He is still very young and is going to make a very good player for us."

Bill Woods was another who made a big impact, his pace and direct running ensured Derry were always cautious when he was on the ball. There are times when his distribution has not complemented his approach work, but the accuracy of his crossing throughout the match created problems for the Derry defence.

Derry manager Kevin Mahon spoke of the entertainment value of all their matches with Cork this season and said: "We always set out to win our matches, we do not go out just looking for a draw and that helps. Cork came back at us very well after we had taken the lead.

"We had another chances immediately after our goal when we hit an upright and had that gone in things might have been different. But it is a disappointment to be going home with nothing after playing so well and after taking the lead."

That lead was the result of a good move five minutes into the second half. Sean Hargan provided the penetration on the left and he had the composure to check where his

colleagues were before he cut the ball back for Eamonn Doherty to slide it home from ten yards.

Goalkeeper Michael Devine denied Derry a second within seconds when he pushed a shot from Tom McCallion on to the butt of an upright and Cork fired the enthusiasm of the fans with the drive and energy of their revival. They were rewarded when O'Flynn raced from near half-way and out-paced Hargan before firing in a shot from 20 yards that looked to be headed to the net when a deflection by Paddy McLaughlin made it certain.

And the winner came when Horgan met a headed clearance three minutes from time for a half-volley that flew into the net from 25 yards. It was a win Cork deserved. "It was an important win because if we can keep it going it means we can take advantage if Bohs slip up."

CORK CITY: Devine; Carey, Daly, Murray, Horgan; O'Halloran, Reynolds (Warren 87), Bennett (C. P. O'Brien 59), Woods; O'Callaghan, O'Flynn.

DERRY CITY: Gough; Deery, Hutton, McLaughlin, Hargan; McGlynn, Martyn (McCready 69), Doherty, Friars; McCallion (Hughes 80), Coyle (Gill 75).

Referee: J. O'Neill (Waterford).

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