Cork City can focus their attentions on Thursday’s night game in Estonia against Levadia Tallinn, John Caulfield’s men securing what was a hard-earned victory over a lively and determined Derry City at Maginn Park.
The win will be considered another vital one for Caulfield, taking full points despite losing the services of full-back Jimmy Keohane with 24 minutes left on the clock.
Remaining 18 points clear of Dundalk, the Cork train continues to cruise towards the league title at full steam.
Add in the fact that first-choice centre-backs Alan Bennett and Johnny Dunleavy were absent for this tough fixture, and the Leesiders came through in the end. Cork will not face a tougher game this season.
In what proved a real thriller at the Donegal seaside venue, Derry made their intentions known from an early juncture when striker Ronan Curtis forced Mark McNulty into an excellent save, the Cork goalkeeper pushing the low effort onto his upright in the 12th minute.
Barry McNamee had played the ball into the danger area from the left and when Curtis continued his run his powerful low effort had goal written all over it before McNulty’s involvement, with Greg Bolger eventually clearing the danger.
Cork threatened five minutes later when the lively Sean Maguire found the unmarked Stephen Dooley at the back post but Ger Doherty did well to make the save and then get down to smother the rebound at Dooley’s feet.
With both teams opting for attack and, indeed, playing at a high tempo, the noise levels at Maginn Park reached crescendo point in the 17th minute when the home side broke the deadlock with a magnificent goal.
A long ball from defence found Barry McNamee and as the skillful midfielder drove forward and the makeshift Cork defence seemed to back off, the Donegal man worked the ball onto his left foot before lashing it high into the net for what was a superb finish.
However, while Derry had looked comfortable for a period after the goal, a slack defensive pass resulted in Cork restoring equality on the half hour.
Attempting to play the ball out of defence, McNamee’s pass forward was intercepted by Maguire whose incisive pass found Karl Sheppard free on the edge of the box and he gleefully slid the ball home, wide of the advancing Doherty, with great accuracy.
In what proved an end-to-end thriller, Cork then silenced the attendance with a superb strike which came out of the blue in the 36th minute.
Dooley rolled the ball into the path of Gearoid Morrissey and the midfielder took one look before arrowing his strike to the net with the outside of his right foot from 30 yards, a stunning finish.
Two minutes later and the confident visitors, with their tails up, could have increased that lead when the busy Dooley strode forward, but his low shot was pushed around the upright by Doherty.
During injury-time at the end of the first half, the Preston-bound Maguire squeezed a superb pass into the path of Dooley, but his low shot was dragged agonisingly wide of the target.
Following the change of ends, Cork appeared more disciplined defensively, happy to allow Derry boss the ball on occasions before hitting on the break. In fact, during the early stages of the second half, Dooley raced clear from the halfway line on the break before Conor McDermott got back to dispossess the winger.
With Derry forcing forward at every opportunity, Cork suffered a body blow with the dismissal of Jimmy Keohane in the 66th minute, the full-back receiving his second yellow card over the space of four minutes for a rash tackle on Dean Jarvis.
When a McNamee cross in the 69th minute struck the outstretched leg of defender Kevin O’Connor, the ball so nearly found the Cork net for what would have been an own goal.
Reduced to 10 men, Cork flooded their defence as Derry huffed and puffed, with substitute Lukas Schubert having a shot blocked by a forest of legs inside the Cork penalty area.
However, the visitors held out, riding their luck at times as Derry continued to pound the Cork City defence — McNulty certainly earned his wages by the final whistle.
Doherty; Monaghan (Schubert, 76), McDermott (Timlin, 86), Barry, Jarvis; Boyle, Low, McEneff, Curtis; McNamee; Patterson.
McNulty; Keohane, McCormack, Delaney, O’Connor; Sheppard, Bolger (Griffin, 71), Morrissey, Dooley; Buckley; Maguire.
P McLaughlin (Donegal)
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