by Robert O'Reilly
Cork City have moved level on points with Dundalk at the top of the SSE Airtricity league table after they defeated ten man Drogheda United 2-1 at Turners Cross.
City appeared to be on their way to a routine win following goals from John Dunleavy and Mark O’Sullivan but despite Gavin Brennan’s second half dismissal, substitute Declan O’Brien pulled a goal back for the visitors to set up a nervous end to the game.
There were three changes to the United team that was held by Bray Wanderers last Friday as Shane Grimes, Carl Walshe and Cathal Brady replaced Roy Kierans, Adam Wixted and O’Brien.
The title challengers started brightly in front of an expectant home crowd and any nerves were soon brushed aside as Dunleavy swept home from the edge of the box on 12 minutes following John O’Flynn’s lay-off.
City should have been two goals up on the half hour mark as Garry Buckley released O’Flynn who rounded Michéal Schlingermann to tap into an empty net but he was denied by the offside flag although replays indicated that the former Exeter striker was onside.
United came into the contest more as the game approached half-time as Brennan, who was operating as a lone striker, sent a 25-yard effort wide of goal before Gavan Holohan stung the palms of City keeper Mark McNulty.
It took only 90 seconds after the interval for the Leesiders to double their advantage as Ciaran McGuigan horribly misjudged a bouncing ball allowing O’Sullivan a free run at McNally before firing across Schlingermann into the bottom corner.
Drogheda failed to produce anything of note going forward despite having a considerable share of possession and Cork went close to finishing the visitors off as Billy Dennehy turned Daire Doyle on the edge of the box before driving a powerful shot past the far post.
United were reduced to ten men on 77 minutes as Brennan received his fourth red card of the season for a two footed lunge on City substitute Josh O’Shea, the 11th time that Drogheda have had a player dismissed this year.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, the Boynesiders were given a lifeline through O’Brien as the striker evaded the challenge of Dan Murray before toe poking the ball past McNulty for his 13th goal this term.
Drogheda pushed City back for the remaining ten minutes of the game but were unable to test the Cork backline as the Leesiders nervously hung on for their 20th league win of the campaign as they aim to overtake Dundalk in the title race.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United will be aiming to strike a significant blow in Cork City’s title challenge when the sides meet at Turners Cross, kick-off 8pm.
City come into Friday’s clash only three points behind United’s local rivals and table toppers Dundalk with four games left to play but the Boynesiders will have their own incentives to play for.
The first will be to rectify last week’s poor performance at home to Bray Wanderers in which Drogheda only managed a 1-1 draw against the relegation candidates and manager Damien Richardson admitted that he was frustrated by the display.
“We never got going against Bray last week and that was deeply disappointing. It is important to bounce back from a display like that and to give a good performance next time out which happens to be against a title contender like Cork. If we don’t play well this week, we will get beaten comprehensively. There is a big challenge waiting for us against an in-form side and there is some pride that we will be looking to regain.”
Tomorrow night’s game will be televised live on Setanta Ireland, only the second time that a Drogheda game has been televised this season, and Richardson has urged his side to take full advantage of the big occasion.
“It’s great to see that the game will be televised and that should prove an added incentive for the players. The pride and the ego associated with being a footballer means that you want to perform in front of the biggest audience and television gives you that opportunity. There is a heavy onus on us to produce a strong performance.”
Richardson is, of course, a former Cork City manager having been in charge of the Leesiders from 05-07, winning both the League of Ireland title and FAI Cup in the process and the Dubliner is looking forward to his first trip South as a manager since his departure.
“It will be highly unusual for me to be in the opposition dugout in Turners Cross but it is the top venue for football in the country. It’s a fantastic stadium and with Cork City flying high in the table, there will be a huge crowd and that will only add to the occasion. I think the team is looking forward to it as much as I am but given my time there, I know what a torrid place it can be when players don’t perform.”
Despite two points dropped to Bray last week, United remain within touching distance of Sligo Rovers in fifth place but they will be without midfielder Peter McGlynn who will serve the final match of a three match ban. Gary O’Neill is also a slight doubt for Drogheda as he continues his recovery from a groin injury.
Drogheda will also be looking for a hint of retribution against City having been beaten by them twice already this campaign. Cork bested Drogheda 3-1 at Turners Cross back in April while John Caulfield’s side were 1-0 winners at United Park in July despite being outplayed for much of the game.
Darius Kierans was in charge for that game but Richardson is confident that with practically fully fit squad available, Drogheda can cause City problems once again.
“I obviously want my team to play at their best but I want the same from Cork too. It is in games like these where you can assess how good you are both individually and collectively and that is a challenge that we will relish. I am hoping that we will do ourselves full justice on Friday.”
Gavan Holohan (Paul Andrews)
Cathal Brady (Adam Wixted)
Stephen Maher (Declan O’Brien)
John Dunleavy 13’
Mark O’Sullivan 47’
Declan O’Brien 81’
Ross Gaynor (yellow) 22’
Mick Daly (yellow) 18’
Gavin Brennan (red) 76’