The performance was more industrious than inspirational but Cork City continued their incredible start to the season, marching to the EA Sports Cup semi-finals with a deserved win at Turner’s Cross yesterday.
EA SPORTS CUP
Cork City...................... 2 Ellis 67, Dooley 90
St Patrick’s Athletic ..... 0
Goals from Connor Ellis and Stephen Dooley were enough to secure victory for the Leesiders against Liam Buckley’s men in front of almost 1,800 fans.
“In some ways the League Cups don’t have the same intensity and pace of the league games and when you make that many changes, you are always a bit edgy,” said City boss John Caulfield afterwards.
“It was that kind of day, it was hot, the tempo was a bit slow. But there was a great attitude. We’re in the semi-final. While a lot of our play wasn’t great, it was still a good win and it’s good to get to the semi-final and keep our unbeaten run going.”
The lazy bank holiday sunshine seemed to affect the players in a largely forgettable first-half.
Greg Bolger, captaining a much-changed home side, was pulling the strings in midfield for the Leesiders, and in the 12th minute his early ball almost put Connor Ellis clear but Saints keeper Barry Murphy was alert and out of his area to clear the danger.
That woke Pat’s from their slumber, and two minutes later Rory Feeley forced City keeper Alan Smith - making his first competitive start of the season for the Leesiders - to save smartly low to his right, after Alan O’Hanlon’s corner wasn’t properly cleared.
On 37 minutes came the game’s first moment of genuine class: Bolger’s magnificent 40-yard pass was controlled by the marauding John Kavanagh.
He laid the ball to Ellis but the striker’s sidefooted first-time finish inched agonisingly wide of Murphy’s right-hand post.
Just before half time, Delaney had to be alert to deny Josh O’Hanlon at the far post from Lunney’s cross.
The second-half fare was far better; in truth it couldn’t have been too much worse.
Achille Campion replaced Christian Nanetti at half-time and 10 minutes later the Frenchman should have opened the scoring.
Barry Murphy dropped Ryan Delaney’s Hail Mary pass at his feet but Campion opted to take a touch, giving just enough time for Murphy to recover and push Campion’s weak effort around the post.
Club captain John Dunleavy replaced teenager Alec Byrne - who was starting to show the effects of his time away with the Ireland U17s last week - on 55 minutes, slotting into midfield, and City began to take a hold of the game.
Jimmy Keohane tried his luck from distance on 57 minutes but Murphy was untroubled. On 67 minutes the breakthrough came.
Stephen Dooley found Shane Griffin on an overlap down the left wing, and his pass across goal was met by Ellis, who didn’t know much about it as he bundled the ball home from close range, after Murphy appeared to save his first effort.
City had an escape on 76 minutes after Saints substitute Ian Bermingham ghosted through at the back post and his powerful effort flashed past Smith’s near post.
Pat’s had a let off of their own seconds later as Ellis had the ball in the net but he was flagged offside.
Buckley’s men weren’t going to give up their League Cup crown without a fight, and on 85 minutes Graham Kelly danced his way into the area before Dunleavy brought his dangerous run to a shuddering halt.
Then, on 86 minutes, veteran Saints hitman Christy Fagan engineered room inside the box but his shot crept just outside Smith’s post, a let-off for the home side.
On 89 minutes Fagan went close again, Smith again could only watch as the striker’s poked effort from the edge of the box went outside the same post.
Ellis had a chance to wrap it up in injury time but Murphy blocked, before Dooley sealed the win, rounding Murphy and passing the ball home to ensure City’s safe passage to the semi-finals.
Cork’s winning habit doesn’t look like stopping any time soon, and more important matters lie ahead this week, City facing Finn Harps in the league on Friday night.
“I’m delighted to be in the semi-final,” said Caulfied. “To win today and be in tomorrow morning looking forward to Finn Harps on Friday is good for us.”
Smith, Kavanagh (Morrissey 81), McCarthy, Delaney, Griffin, Dooley, Bolger, Keohane, Nanetti (Campion 45), Byrne (Dunleavy 55), Ellis.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC:
Murphy, Barker, Peers (Desmond 24), Feely, Lunney, Cregg, C Byrne, Kelly, Bayly (Bermingham 67), A O’Hanlon (Fagan 75), J O’Hanlon.
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