Dundalk 2 Cork City 4: Liam Miller would have been proud of his old club Cork City, as they fought back from two goals down to retain the President’s Cup against their long-time rivals Dundalk at Oriel Park yesterday.
The passing of the 36-year-old on Friday night overshadowed the SSE Airtricity League curtain-raiser, but a minute’s silence beforehand and applause in the 22nd minute were impeccably observed by both sets of fans.
A first-half double from Ronan Murray in blizzard-like conditions looked like it had put one hand on the cup for Stephen Kenny’s side, but a few strong words from City manager John Caulfield had the desired effect, as Karl Sheppard, Barry McNamee, Kieran Sadlier and Graham Cummins all found the net after the restart to make it seven matches without defeat against the Louth men.
Afterwards, Caulfield admitted that the game paled in significance compared to how it felt losing someone so young.
“You just can’t really put it into words, because he’s just so young. He would have been 37 on Tuesday. It’s just so sad for his family.
“He was just a lovely person, humble and [he] never gloated. The heights he had got to with United and Ireland; he never spoke about it unless you asked him and, even then, he was very shy about it.
“He was a professional footballer all his life. He went to Celtic at 16 and he lived for that dream. If he was watching there, he would have been very disappointed in our first-half performance and he would have expected us in the second half to have a go, so from that point of view, it was important for the guys to go out and give a performance.”
Caulfield called on Cork city as a whole to come out for today’s funeral to “give Liam a proper tribute and send off”.
He said: “While we get wound up at times about the football, the reality is that your health is everything.
“It’s an extremely tragic situation and obviously some of the people around our club are very, very close to him, particularly Mark McNulty. From that point of view, it’s very difficult, but whatever about today, it is more important that we show the support to his family and give Liam the tribute that he deserves.
“Nothing will ease it for his family, but it’s important that the club and the people of Cork come out in force to show their respect to him.”
With the snow turning the Oriel Park surface white, Dundalk bossed the opening exchanges and took a deserved lead in the 19th minute. A ball in from the left towards Michael Duffy wasn’t dealt with and Murray was on hand to apply the finish from close range to make it 1-0.
Cork had another let-off two minutes later. Former Lilywhites keeper Peter Cherrie sliced an attempted clearance, with Colm Horgan having to block on the line from Duffy, who would later shave the post with a long-range effort.
The second goal arrived on 40 minutes. Dane Massey’s cross from the left wasn’t dealt with, allowing Murray to pounce from close range to fire to the roof of the net.
The sun came out for the second half and Cork came out of the traps too, pulling a goal back within four minutes of the restart. A flick on by Cummins wasn’t dealt with by Chris Shields and Gary Rogers, allowing substitute Karl Sheppard to nip in and score.
Cork then pulled level on 56 minutes, when Sadlier found space on the left to hang a cross up for Barry McNamee to head home at the back post.
The visitors hit the front on 79 minutes, with Sadlier sending a screamer of a shot to the top left-hand corner from all of 25 yards. The former Sligo Rovers man then helped secure the win two minutes later, when he crossed for Cummins to head home at the near post.
Afterwards, Dundalk boss Kenny blasted his side as “careless” for throwing away their half-time advantage.
“To be 2-0 up and lose 4-2 is careless in the extreme. There’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“We had a lot of players missing today and a lot of players playing out of position. To be fair, Cork capitalised on it and took their goals very well, so we can have no complaints,” said Kenny.
Rogers; Poynton, Hoare (Benson 37), Folan, Massey; Shields, Adorjan (Hoban 65); Connolly (O’Keeffe 87), McGrath, Duffy; Murray.
Cherrie; Horgan (Beattie HT), Bennett, Barry, Griffin; Morrissey (McCarthy 90), McCormack; McNamee, Keohane (Sheppard HT), Sadlier (McLoughlin 90); Cummins (Adebayo-Rowling 90).
Derek Tomney (Dublin).
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