Needing a win to move back to the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, the Rebel Army — searching for their fifth straight league win since drawing 0-0 with Derry City at the Brandywell – looked to be in firm control. However, one win in the five games since then hadn’t dulled Derry’s endeavour and they continued to put it up to their hosts.
They had a goal back as Rory Patterson flicked Doherty’s goal kick on for Ronan Curtis and he marked his final game before moving to Portsmouth with a low shot past Mark McNulty from outside the area on 65 minutes.
That was only the second home league goal conceded by Cork City, but a third arrived on 69. Jack Doyle sent a cross over from the left, and when it fell for Ronan Hale at the back post he lashed a shot to the net beyond McNulty.
The script had been usurped by some improv, but the majority of the audience of 3,865 wasn’t enjoying it. Parity wasn’t to last long, though. When Garry Buckley was fouled 25 yards from goal on 73, Kieran Sadlier netted the free kick and Graham Cummins made sure of the win seven minutes from time, heading in the rebound after his initial effort hit the crossbar.
Cork City manager John Cauflield felt his team’s character was perfectly illustrated.
“At half-time, I felt it was about the next goal,” he said.
Either they’d get one back or we’d win the game. At 2-0 you should be safe but for five minutes we went self-destruct and all of a sudden it’s 2-2.
“To be fair, there’s a great character in the team, massive attitude and Kieran Sadlier stepped up and scored the free kick and Graham got another, fully deserved for all the hard work he does.
It’s about character and that doesn’t happen overnight. You’ve players and management who work hard to make sure we’re always in the game and we always think we can score goals.
“The goals were sloppy because we’re proud of our clean sheet record but on another day that could have been two points dropped. There’s only a point in it right now so it doesn’t matter if we’re top or second, but it’s pleasing that we always look like getting goals.”
With captain Conor McCormack suspended for picking up five bookings this season, Karl Sheppard came into the side as captain, with former Derry man Barry McNamee dropping deep to play alongside Jimmy Keohane in midfield. In addition, Conor McCarthy continued the job-share with Alan Bennett in central defence, as the veteran dropped to the bench.
Derry had three changes following Friday’s reversal against Sligo Rovers, with Jamie McDonagh, Rory Patterson, and Eoin Toal replacing Conor McDermott, Ben Doherty and Nicky Low.
Having lost the toss, Cork were forced to play into the Shed End in the first half, as they were on Friday against Waterford, but this time they didn’t have to wait as long for the opening goal. They had the better of the play in the early minutes and the first chance came on seven, when Shane Griffin played the ball down the line for Graham Cummins. He did well to create space for himself and his cross was perfect for Sheppard to meet the ball at the near post with a glancing header.
It wasn’t the signal for a goal spree in the opening half as Derry presented a positive response to going behind, but City never looked overly troubled at the same time.
There were rumblings of a second goal in the first half without appearing an inevitability. A Kieran Sadlier cross was partly cleared by Darren Cole but only as far as Keohane 20 yards out but he fired over, while a Buckley shot was unintentionally blocked by Cummins, who was offside.
On the half-hour, Derry fashioned a nice chance as Rory Hale linked with Rory Patterson, who flicked the ball into the path of Aaron McEneff, but he couldn’t keep his shot down.
As the half ended, City came close again. When Buckley dummied a McNamee pass, Cummins was almost in but keeper Ger Doherty was out well to get in a good challenge. Tthen, when McNamee’s diagonal ball found Cummins on the right, his delivery was just too high for Buckley.
That second goal did arrive straight after the resumption and it might have even been 3-0 around the hour-mark but Cummins was ruled offside when he headed home. After that let-off, Derry came back, but it was to be the home team’s day.
McNulty; Horgan, McCarthy, McLoughlin, Griffin (Kane 73); Keohane, McNamee (O’Hanlon 77); Sheppard, Buckley, Sadlier; Cummins (Barry 86).
G Doherty; McDonagh, Toal, Peers (Logue 61), Doyle; Hale, Cole, Rory Hale; Ronan Hale, Patterson, Curtis.
R Hennessy (Clare).