Absolutely no qualms about the entertainment value in Turner’s Cross last night in a game which, played in soaking conditions, produced as many spills as thrills, as well as five goals.
The managers, mind, must have been tearing their hair out at times.
But at the end of a remarkable match, it was Dundalk who were left drowning their sorrows and Cork who had the bulk of a crowd of 2,815 singing in the rain, as the home side made it back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
In a crazy opening 15 minutes on a surface made treacherous by teeming rain, both teams found the net twice.
The entertainment began in just the third minute when, from a Gearoid Morrissey corner, Davin O’Neill smashed a terrific volley in off the underside of the crossbar.
Five minutes later, Dundalk were level. About 25 yards out, Michael Rafter let go a shot on the turn which Mark McNulty — a hero at Tolka Park the previous week — seemed to have well covered. But the keeper found the greasy ball imitating a bar of soap and, to his embarrassment, it squirmed away from his grasp and just about trickled over the goal line off the inside of the post.
Worse was to follow for the home side in the 12th minute when a defensive breakdown in communications between Morrissey and skipper Dan Murray allowed Gary Shanahan to nip in and beat the badly exposed McNulty.
But a helter-skelter opening period then saw Cork back on level terms as the nervy Dundalk rearguard, perhaps anticipating an offside flag, were slow to respond to Kalen Spillane’s lofted through ball, allowing O’Neill to steer the ball wide of Peter Cherrie.
After that hectic opening, the game took a much needed breather until just past the half-hour when Cherrie was called upon to make a point-blank save to deny Vinny Sullivan’s effort from Tadhg Purcell’s cross. And then, by way of immediate response, Shane O’Neill produced a surging run which took him past a couple of Cork players before he shot just wide of McNulty’s post.
In increasingly sodden conditions, Cork began to dominate and, after the home side had put together the best multi-pass move of the game so far, Dundalk had the veteran Cherrie to thank for a fine tip-over save to keep out a curling effort from Daryl Horgan.
With the rain continuing to sheet down during the break, changed strips for players and officials were the order of the night. And it was Cork who adapted quickest after the restart, Sullivan — who had grabbed two against Shels — leaving Cherrie standing with a header from Morrissey’s cross in the 50th minute. It was 3-2 to City now but, in a game which had already defied logic — and was still only just about defying the weather — it was anyone’s guess who would score next.
Cork were certainly looking the more likely, with O’Neill coming agonisingly close again after a great ball from Sullivan. Still, for Dundalk’s by now rare sorties forward, City had to guard against any errors on the unforgiving turf, and in the 77th minute McNulty was required to show a safe pair of hands when saving acrobatically from Shanahan.
Danny Murphy too had to do a real full-back’s covering job to get across and clear the danger when the visitors had another sight of goal.
In truth, Cork might have made it easier for themselves by making more of their possession at the business end of the pitch but, with the inspirational Morrissey a driving force right up to the end — despite the by now leg-wearying conditions — Cork kept their feet as well as their heads to see the game out and collect another valuable three points.
CORK CITY: McNulty, Healy, Murray, Spillane, Murphy, Horgan, Morrissey, Duggan, O’ Neill, Sullivan (Turner 91), Purcell.
DUNDALK: Cherrie, Mountney, Byrne, Burns, Osborne, Walsh, McDonnell (Thomas 83), Waters, Shanahan, O’Neill (Reilly 80), Rafter (Osobe 71).
Referee: P Sutton (Dublin).
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