Cork City can now turn their sights towards Thursday’s big Europa League clash with AEK Larnaca after yesterday’s deserved 1-0 victory over 10-man St Patrick’s Athletic saw them extend their lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League to 12 points with two games in hand on second-placed Dundalk.
SSE Airtricity Premier Division
Maguire pen 45
St Patrick’s Athletic.............0
The win came courtesy of a Seán Maguire penalty at a sun-drenched Turner’s Cross and the win would have been by a wider margin only for a superb display from St Pat’s goalkeeper Conor O’Malley.
A happy John Caulfield was full of praise for his side. “It was important not to drop points today as last year we dropped points after playing in Europe. People don’t realise the amount of effort that went into the game last Thursday night and the conditions were difficult today,” he said.
“We hit the post a few times and Conor O’Malley made several great saves. This could have been a banana skin but I felt we were totally dominant in the second half, we failed to get the second goal but the three points are the most important thing.”
City had new signing Kieran Sadlier making his debut. Conor McCarthy partnered Ryan Delaney at the heart of the back four, and Steven Beattie replaced the suspended Jimmy Keohane.
The consensus for much of the season has been that Liam Buckley’s St Pat’s side are too good to go down but having tasted victory in the league only three times, they are now in real danger.
Buckley pulled off a coup in landing former Ipswich Town and Crystal Palace midfielder Owen Garven last week but the former Republic of Ireland U21 international inexplicably got himself sent off at half-time. New signings Killian Brennan and Dutchman Jordi Balk also started, as Buckley looked to inject a bit of purpose and experience into his side with relegation now a real possibility.
The visitors were almost handed the perfect start inside 30 seconds when an error from Ryan Delaney let Graham Kelly through on goal, but Mark McNulty was quick off his line to make a great stop.
Midway through the first half, Kevin O’Connor did well to play in Karl Sheppard, unlucky to see his effort from the right edge of the box come back off the post, before O’Malley denied Maguire after a poor header from Lee Desmond.
City began to gain the upper hand as the half wore on and took the lead in stoppage time, when substitute Billy Dennehy was adjudged to have brought down Beattie inside the box and Maguire slotted home his 19th league goal of the season from the resultant spot-kick.
On the way to the dressing rooms, Garvan needlessly got himself sent off following an altercation in the tunnel after the midfielder felt that Beattie had gone down too easily in winning the penalty.
Having cost his side any chance of getting back into the game with only 10 men, Buckley must have been fuming with his experienced new signing, who will now also face an automatic suspension.
City went for the jugular after the break and substitute Achille Campion missed a sitter just after coming on when he volleyed wildly over from six yards after another fantastic run from the excellent Stephen Dooley.
Maguire then hit a post with a delightful chip before O’Malley made a great save to claw away Kevin O’Connor’s free-kick which looked destined for the top corner.
O’Malley saved from Campion and Maguire again in quick succession before denying Shane Griffin in injury time.
McNulty; Beattie, Delaney, McCarthy, O’Connor; Sheppard (Campion 56), McCormack, Buckley, Sadlier (Griffin 73), Dooley; Maguire.
O’Malley; Barker, Balk, Desmond, Bermingham; C Byrne, Brennan, Garvan, Kelly, Lunney (B Dennehy 38); Fagan (J O’Hanlon 65).
B Connolly (Dublin).
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