By the end, however, successive 3-0 losses to UCD and Drogheda United had been put to one side as City, inspired by two goals from former Sligo Rovers player Daryl Horgan, downed the champions, leaving Dunne delighted.
“It was a young team, but the character is the main thing that we saw from the players tonight, they dug deep,” Dunne said.
“You’re playing against the champions, against a team that’s in full flow, so for us out there tonight we had to show and the boys did that from start to finish. It was badly-needed but I know that there’s a lot more in the boys.
“There’s always going to be pressure playing for this club, and maybe it just takes time for some players to get used to that.”
Of the barracking from some sections of support, the manager insisted that he had faced tougher challenges.
“I want to think positive tonight,” he said, “but in saying that people will have their own opinions.
“I grew up in a family that’s steeped in League of Ireland, and the battle was to be underage internationals or full internationals. There’s a lot of character there, the boo-boys within the kitchen were tougher than the ones out there!”
Cork had the first chance and it was their only real opportunity of the first half. Loan signing from Shamrock Rovers Ciarán Kilduff did well on the right and crossed for strike partner Daryl Kavanagh at the back post but Gary Rogers did well, even if he didn’t know much about it.
Though City did try to expose Sligo’s high line with through balls, they suffered from offside calls, and with Joseph Ndo pulling the strings — admittedly allowed too much space — in the Sligo midfield, they settled into the game and took control. Danny North was unlucky to find the side-netting from a clever Ross Gaynor free while Cork goalkeeper Mark McNulty was called upon to save David Cawley’s effort for a corner.
Sligo right-back Alan Keane was getting forward well, and though Horgan was doing a lot of good work to counteract his forays, it was his cross shortly in the 37th minute which allowed Sligo new boy David McMillan an attempt at an overhead kick, but it went wide.
Cawley had another effort too before half-time, off-target this time, but as the sides resumed it was Sligo who looked likelier to take the points. Less than four minutes into the second half, though, it was Ndo’s loose backpass which allowed Horgan in and, just as against Drogheda United before the mid-season break, he lifted his shot over the goalkeeper and in.
That goal gave City confidence and they began to have more of the play, Kilduff a valuable resource in holding the ball up while Garry Buckley — a late replacement for John Dunleavy — did well in defence.
Kilduff had a half-chance midway through the half but Jeff Henderson did well to block, however Sligo’s troubles were illustrated by the withdrawal of Ndo, whose impact was not as strong as it had been in the opening period.
Sligo were still in it, but on 74 minutes Horgan made their task harder as he fired a low shot past Rogers from the left corner of the penalty area after Gearóid Morrissey’s pass.
Even still, it was not over, as Lee Lynch gave notice that Sligo wouldn’t go away as McNulty had to save from his volley, and when David McMillan finished from sub Anthony Elding’s knockdown, a nervy finish looked to be in store.
Instead, though, Kilduff responded immediately, flicking over Rogers and tapping home to ease and home worries.
CORK CITY: McNulty; N Horgan, Buckley, Spillane, D Murphy; Turner, G Morrissey, Duggan, D Horgan; D Kavanagh (Behan 86), Kilduff (Furlong 86).
SLIGO ROVERS: Rogers; Keane, Peers, Henderson, Gaynor; Lynch (E McMillan 84), Cawley, Conneely, Ndo (Davoren 69), D McMillan; North (Elding 65).
Referee: P McLaughlin (Monaghan).