Cork City 2 - Dundalk 1: Six points clear after six games is hardly daylight, but Cork City are certainly going to take stopping in the Premier Division title race this season.

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John Caulfield’s ‘special’ Cork City open gap to champions

Cork City 2 - Dundalk 1: Six points clear after six games is hardly daylight, but Cork City are certainly going to take stopping in the Premier Division title race this season.

John Caulfield’s ‘special’ Cork City open gap to champions

For once it wasn’t Seanie Maguire doing the damage as Karl Sheppard’s first-half double saw City to a hard-fought but deserved 2-1 victory over their great rivals Dundalk on Saturday.

After a week where the tragic death of Ryan McBride stunned the Irish sporting world, the reaction to the Derry Cty skipper’s passing revealed so much of what the League of Ireland can be proud of.

Saturday was another day when the league showed it has plenty to offer, as the ‘New Firm’ of reigning champions Dundalk and FAI Cup holders City went toe to toe in front of 6,764 fans at a heaving Turner’s Cross.

For the sixth time in seven meetings of these two rivals, the spoils went the way of the Leesiders.

Sheppard was on the end of two Sean Maguire passes to put Cork in the driving seat at half-time. Dave McMillan gave Dundalk hope in the second-half but City held on.

Stephen Kenny was frustrated afterwards at referee Rob Rogers, believing the Lillywhites should have had a penalty at 1-0 when Ciarán Kilduff went down as keeper Mark McNulty went to smother a ball, “a clear penalty” according to the Dundalk boss.

In truth, however, the win was thoroughly deserved by the Leesiders, with a first-half display where they were hungrier, brighter, and sharper. “Special” is how John Caulfield describes his players.

“I keep saying, I think it’s a special time in the club’s history,” said Caulfield. “I think it’s a special team and that’s why I’m asking the fans to buy into this, which they have done. Keep behind us, they’re a special group.

“We’d a really, really good first-half. At half time we were just seeing could we push on and get the third goal and kill the game. In fairness to McMillan he got a goal out of nothing and then they’re throwing the kitchen sink at us. There was a lot of resilience, lads dug in and defended really well.”

City took the lead on 22 minutes. A lightning-fast counter attack saw Stephen Dooley release Maguire down the left wing, and he charged into the area before providing an inch-perfect pass for the in-rushing Karl Sheppard to flick home past Gary Rogers.

Eight minutes before the break, City were 2-0 up thanks to the same combination. This time Maguire provided a brilliant pass which Sheppard charged on to ahead of flat-footed defender Dane Massey, rounded keeper Gary Rogers and tapped into the empty net.

The champions raised their game in the second-half and pulled a goal back through a fine finish from the edge of the box by sub Dave McMillan. But despite throwing everything at City, the equaliser would not come. Dundalk’s miserable day was complete with the dismissal of Kilduff, who picked up a second yellow card for a silly challenge on Conor McCormack.

Dundalk came into Saturday’s game with midfield dangerman Patrick McEleney in red-hot form but McCormack at the heart of the City engine room ensured he didn’t get a chance to open up the City defence.

“McEleney is a great player and it was part of our plan to quieten him down, I thought I did a decent job,” said McCormack, who himself hails from Co Louth. “We do an awful lot of video analysis so we were set up properly for this game.”

It was job well done by McCormack after an emotional week on a personal level, following the death of his former team-mate, Derry skipper McBride. McCormack made the trip from Cork to Derry on Thursday to bid a final farewell.

“I played with him for the last 18 months, he was not only a teammate of mine he was one of my good mates up there,” said McCormack.

“Everone in the football community in Ireland respected him. I went up on Thursday, it was an awful lot of travel but I had to pay my respects. At least everyone in Ireland has given hm a good send-off.”

CORK CITY:

McNulty, Keohane, Bennett, Delaney, O’Connor, Sheppard, McCormack, Morrissey, Buckley (Campion 75), Dooley (Griffin 90), Maguire (Ellis 89)

DUNDALK:

Rogers, Gannon, Barrett, Gartland, Massey, Benson (Clifford 8, [Stewart 53])), Shields, Mountney (McMillan 69), Duffy, McEleney, Kilduff.

Referee:

R Rogers

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