A goal from substitute Davin O’Neill 20 minutes from time saw 10-man Cork City get back to winning ways in a five-goal thriller at Turner’s Cross last night.
Cork had twice been in front only to be pegged back by high-flying Drogheda and after Mick Cooke’s side had equalised for the second time and Cork had goalkeeper Mark McNulty sent off, it looked like they would struggle to hold on for a point.
However, four minutes after McNulty was sent off and Drogheda equalised from the penalty spot, O’Neill’s cross was deflected up and over Gabriel Sava in the Drogheda goal for what turned out to be the winner.
Cork City boss Tommy Dunne blasted his players after their inept display at the Belfield Bowl last Friday when going down 3-1 to UCD, and made wholesale changes to that side.
Out went captain Dan Murray, Kalen Spillane, Andy O’Connell and the injured John Dunleavy and they were replaced by Gavin Kavanagh, Kevin Murray, Neal Horgan and Vinny Sullivan.
Drogheda were beaten 2-0 at home by Shamrock Rovers last Friday and Mick Cooke brought John Sullivan, Connor McMahon and Eric Foley into the side in replace of Brian Gannon, Peter Hynes and the suspended Derek Prendergast.
Dunne’s side opened brighter and they were one up inside five minutes when Danny Murphy’s low free-kick from 25 yards came back off one post, spun across the goal and came back off the other post to the waiting Vinny Sullivan, who had the easy task of tapping home.
Sava then had to tip Daryl Horgan’s rasping effort over the bar two minutes later as City took the game to the visitors.
City had the lion’s share of possession in the opening quarter but Drogheda were slowly beginning to stamp their authority on the game and the dangerous Sean Brennan was inches away from an equaliser on the half-hour mark. Neal Horgan’s poor clearance fell to Brennan before the number 10 cut inside from the left and unleashed a piledriver from the edge of the box which rattled McNulty’s crossbar.
Declan O’Brien was then unlucky to see his neat effort with the outside of his right foot fly narrowly wide as the Co Louth side began to boss proceedings.
An equaliser always looked on the cards and it duly arrived five minutes before the break when Eric Foley curled a sublime right-footed free-kick into the top corner of Mark McNulty’s net from 28 yards.
City should have gone back in front just before the break when new signing Keigan Parker picked out Sullivan with a superb cross but the striker could only direct his header straight at Sava.
Dunne’s side were back in front five minutes into the second half and the goal came from yet another set-piece. This time Danny Murphy floated a free-kick into the Drogheda box, where Kevin Murray was left unmarked to head home from close range.
Drogheda were level again in controversial circumstances in the 66th minute when Gavin Brennan found himself in a race for the ball with McNulty. The Cork keeper looked to have got to the ball first before Brennan went down but referee Derek Tomney pointed to the spot and sent off the Cork keeper.
The game was held up for three minutes as Brennan received treatment after the clash and Cork brought on sub keeper Graham Burns, whose first duty was to pick the ball out of his net as Declan O’Brien crashed his penalty home.
Just as the game looked to be turning the away side’s way, O’Neill struck for what turned out to be a much needed winner for Tommy Dunne’s side.
CORK CITY: McNulty, N Horgan, Kavanagh, K Murray, Murphy; Turner (O’Neill 62), Morrissey, Duggan, D Horgan; Parker (Quinn 85), Sullivan (Burns 65).
DROGHEDA UNITED: Sava; Quigley, McNally (Gannon 74), Byrne, McMahon; G Brennan, Sullivan (R Brennan 62), Crowley, Foley, S Brennan (Mulvenna 62); O’Brien.
Referee: D Tomney (Dublin).
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