by Shane Callaghan
Danny Morrisey netted an 87th-minute winner as Drogheda United succumbed to a 3-2 defeat against Cork City at Hunky Dorys Park, after Mick Cooke’s men recovered from a two-goal deficit.
Stuart Ashton’s men raced into a 2-0 lead inside 15 minutes, courtesy of strikes from the superb Ciaran Kilduff – who had a hand in all three goals – and Shane Duggan respectively.
Ryan Brennan atoned for an earlier penalty miss by halving the deficit on the stroke of half time, before Peter Hynes completed the comeback early in the second.
However, United’s spirit to crow-bar their way back into the clash ultimately proved fruitless, as Morrisey was on hand with three minutes remaining to sink the Boynesiders.
United manager Mick Cooke made no fewer than seven changes from the team which perished in the EA Sports Cup final to Shamrock Rovers on Saturday, with the 62-year-old perhaps keeping one eye on the club’s upcoming FAI Cup semi-final clash with neighbours Dundalk.
The Rebels began the brighter of both teams, with Kilduff, in particular, proving problematic for the United defence. The Drogheda rearguard could not lay a glove on the 24-year-old, who opened the scoring on 11 minutes, cleverly deceiving defender Alan Byrne before firing inside Gabriel Sava’s near post.
The former Shamrock Rovers marksman turned provider minutes later, nutmegging Byrne before playing a perfectly weighted lofted ball to Duggan, who rifled past the on-rushing Sava.
The game should have been over as a contest shortly after, as Daryl Horgan thrashed narrowly wide from a good angle following a neat pass by Kilduff once more.
Cooke’s men responded well to the two-goal deficit, with Byrne rising highest from a corner to see his header deflected narrowly over the bar, before Michael Daly saw his bid to cut the lead rebuffed by the woodwork moments later.
The Boynesiders were handed a lifeline, though, as referee Robert Harvey pointed to the spot after Ryan Brennan went down under a challenge by John Kavanagh. Brennan, however, fluffed his lines from 12 yards and fizzed his penalty against the advertising boarding.
The youngster went in search of redemption and nearly found it after volleying Daly’s cross-field ball narrowly wide, before atoning his earlier miss by tapping past goalkeeper Mark McNulty from close range to cut the deficit shortly before the half-time whistle sounded.
United picked up where they left prior to the break, and it was not long before Cooke would watch his team’s pressure pay dividends.
Jason Marks galloped down the right flank, before squaring to Hynes who slotted past McNulty from close range at the second attempt following a scramble in the area.
There were chances for both teams to edge ahead in the contest, with Byrne heading wide from a set-piece, before Kilduff forced a smart save from Sava.
Both managers looked set for a share of the spoils, only for the clash to take one final twist. Kilduff rose highest to nod a cross-field ball across the face of goal, with Morrisey lurking at the back post to slot home past Sava to steal the points.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United will be looking to return to winning ways following Saturday’s EA Sports Cup final defeat when they face Cork City in the Airtricity Premier Division at Hunky Dorys Park, kick off 7.45 pm.
A 2-0 defeat in Tallaght at the hands of Shamrock Rovers meant that Drogheda were unable to retain the trophy that they won in 2012 while also tasting their second cup final defeat of the season to the same opposition.
Tuesday will mark United’s first league game in 16 days since the 1-0 derby defeat to Dundalk and Derek Prendergast will be unavailable due to suspension while Gavin Brennan is a doubt with a shoulder injury.
Matches between the sides have been tight this season resulting in a win for both and a 1-1 draw at the same venue earlier this season.
City’s form has improved under caretaker manager Stuart Ashton and they recorded an impressive 4-1 victory over Derry City before losing to Shamrock Rovers a fortnight ago.
Cork will travel to Drogheda without several key players; John Dunleavy and Colin Healy are suspended while Kevin Murray and Darren Dennehy are ruled out due to injury.
The two clubs are level on points going into the game with Drogheda in sixth place on goal difference and Drogheda United assistant manager Robbie Horgan is expecting a tough test.
“We have played a lot of games this season and we made a decision to give the players a few days off because at this stage of the season it’s more about managing the players as much as anything else. We have a lot of games coming up very fast and the season isn’t over just yet. They have all worked hard over the year and we need to look after them now.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game tomorrow, ourselves Cork and Limerick are all vying for the same positions and tomorrow night is a big night for all three of us.
“But we know when the team is fit and we have a full squad on the pitch the lads are more than a match for anyone, when we lost in the Setanta Cup final we went to Limerick the next game and won, so we know we can bounce back from these defeats. After the Malmo tie we went on an unbeaten run.”
Ryan Brennan 45’
Peter Hynes 53’
Ciarán Kilduff 11’
Shane Duggan 15’
Danny Morrissey 87’
Alan McNally (yellow) 26’
Garry Buckley (yellow) 29’