A much-changed Cork City got back to winning ways in the league as they eased past a relegation-threatened Limerick in last night’s SSE Airtricity League Premier Division Munster derby at Turner’s Cross.
Following the excitement of Monday’s FAI Cup semi-final victory over Bohemians at the same venue and with both teams’ having little to play for, this was never going to be a cracker but two second half goals following a drab opening half saw the crowd of 2,486 go home happy.
With a second placed finish secure and the cup final a few weeks away, Caulfield retained only three players who started against Bohemians — Jimmy Keohane, Kieran Sadlier, and Conor McCarthy.
Just as he did against Shamrock Rovers last week, this was an another ideal opportunity for the City boss to run the rule over a few of his fringe players and youngsters, who acquitted themselves quite well in Tallaght.
With his side facing a relegation play-off against either Finn Harps or Drogheda, Tommy Barrett is looking for a few good performances in the final three league matches as his side look to gain some confidence going into the two-legged tie.
Barrett therefore put out his strongest side last night, making three changes to the side that went down 1-0 to Derry City last week.
In came former Cork City men Billy Dennehy and Danny Morrissey along with Killian Brouder, and they replaced Colman Kennedy, Karl O’Sullivan, and William Fitzgerald.
With the much publicised money issues hanging over the club for most of the season, Barrett has done a fine job keeping his side focused and competitive in difficult circumstances and he remains confident his side are good enough to preserve their Premier Division status.
His optimism may have waned within 90 seconds of the start however as his side found themselves a goal behind after City’s first attack of the match.
Sadlier played a neat ball through to Jimmy Keohane, who found himself with plenty of time in the box to take aim and blast a shot in off the underside of the crossbar to give the home side the perfect start.
With five former City players in Barrett’s starting XI, the Shannonsiders were never going to lie down easily and Barry Maguire went close midway through the first half when his drive had Peter Cherrie worried but it flew narrowly past the angle of the City keeper’s post and crossbar.
After a bright start from the home side, Limerick were slowly growing into the game and Cherrie had to pull off a superb save to tip Morrissey’s volley around his post in the 32nd minute.
Morrissey then had to hack McCarthy’s header off his line from Sadlier’s corner kick as Caulfield urged his side to up the pace before Dennehy flashed a shot wide at the other end.
After scoring so early, City were guilty of taking their foot off the gas as the first half wore on. Caulfield must have demanded more from his side at half-time and they duly obliged shortly after the restart when Sadlier netted number two.
Again the goal could have been avoided but Brouder’s poor ball out of defence was intercepted by Shane Daly-Butz. He in turn fed Keohane and the midfielder fizzed a superb ball through to Sadlier, who neatly side-stepped the out-rushing Tommy Holland before shooting home.
Holland had to keep out another rasping effort from the City number 11 shortly afterwards before the same player’s free-kick went over off the top of the crossbar.
It was all City now and Holland had to pull off a great double save, first to deny Daly-Butz and then to keep out Pierce Phillips’ follow up as the home side went for the jugular.
Aaron Barry finished the scoring in injury time when he headed home Sadlier’s corner kick as City claimed all three league points for the first time since beating Waterford on August 3.
CORK CITY: Cherrie, McCarthy, Delaney, Barry, Hurley, Daly-Butz (Holland 85), McCormack, Keohane (Phillips 68), McNamee, Sadlier, Coughlan (Murphy 57).
LIMERICK: Holland, Kelly, Cantwell, Brouder (Kennedy 74), Tracy, Duggan, Coleman, Murphy (O’Sullivan 61), Maguire, B Dennehy, Morrissey (Ellis 72).
Referee: A Buttimer (Cork)