Cork City 4 Bray Wanderers 0
Blue skies and bright sunshine made for seaside weather as this game kicked off at Turner’s Cross but, by the end of a what turned out to be a long, dark night for the visitors, Bray Wanderers were left feeling very far from home as, for the second time this season, a rampant Cork City put four past the Premier Division’s basement team.
Moving the ball with purpose and no little panache, the home side were clearly intent on establishing dominance from the very start, with Kieran Sadlier a particular menace on the left flank.
But when the breakthrough arrived for City after only three minutes, it came from the right, as Barry McNamee cut inside and opened up the route to the visitors’ goal with an exquisite angled pass.
Bursting through the heart of the exposed Bray defence, Jimmy Keohane took full advantage to beat ’keeper Evan Moran with a shot on the stretch.
As Sadlier, McNamee, and Keohane again all threatened to increase City’s lead in the opening 20 minutes, it looked for a while as if the champions’ champagne football might blow Bray away well before the break.
But, to their credit, the visitors weathered the storm and began to apply some pressure of their own, prompting a spell of nervous defending from City and requiring Mark McNulty to keep out a dipping Gary McCabe free kick approaching the half hour mark.
McCabe’s canny passing and excellent dead ball delivery, allied to the darting runs of Cory Galvin, continued to give Bray hope, but, at the other end, City always looked capable of extending their lead, even if at times they were guilty of over-complicating the passes in their search for a second goal.
It finally arrived two minutes before half-time, defender Sean McLoughlin converting with a volley from close range after headers from Garry Buckley and Graham Cummins had kept McNamee’s corner alive in the box.
And it should have been three early in the second half, after an uncharacteristic hail mary of a back pass from McCabe put his ‘keeper in trouble outside the box.
But, though well placed to take full advantage of Moran’s slip, Sadlier failed to keep his cool and blasted his shot high over the unprotected goal.
The winger helped make up for the miss in the 63rd minute, however, digging out a cross from the left which caused Moran to so completely lose his bearings under his own crossbar that all he could do was flap the ball down onto his own goal-line to present Cummins with a chance he simply couldn’t miss.
The striker’s goal was his last act before being replaced by Josh O’Hanlon, at the same time as Barry McNamee made way for Karl Sheppard.
But lest City might think that they were going to have it all their own way, McNulty almost immediately had to make his first big save of the night, superbly tipping over a fierce shot from Galvin.
But it wasn’t long before the Bray net was bulging again. In the pick of the night’s goals, the City move started with a lancing, cross-field pass from Sadlier.
Coming in off the right flank, Sheppard’s trickery and determination took him past two opponents to the byline and, from his cross to the far post, Garry Buckley headed home the goal he fully deserved for an outstanding all-round performance.
The only blot for the champions was that injury to skipper Conor McCormack — sustained in a typically whole-hearted double challenge for the ball — meant they had to finish with ten men.
John Caulfield’s side have been accused of winning ugly on occasion this season, but, in front of a satisfied crowd of just over 4,000, there could be no denying the style as well as the substance with which they put Bray to the sword.
CORK CITY: McNulty, Horgan, McCarthy, McLoughlin (Barry 75), Griffin, McCormack, Keohane, McNamee (Sheppard 64), Buckley, Sadlier, Cummins (O’Hanlon 64)
RAY WANDERERS: Moran; Hayes, Kenna (Gibbons 78), Heaney, Lynch, McKenna, O’Conor; D. Kelly (Flynn 83), McCabe (Pender 68), Galvin; Coughlan.
Referee: Damien McGrath (Mayo).
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