By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United’s perfect start to the new season came to a halt this evening as they lost 4-1 to Cork City at United Park.
Stephen Elliott cancelled out Sean Maguire’s early opener before the game turned on a controversial red card for Drogheda midfielder Richie Purdy with City taking full advantage through goals from Gearoid Morrissey, Karl Sheppard and Conor Ellis.
Drogheda manager Pete Mahon named an unchanged side from the one that defeated St Patrick’s Athletic 2-0 last week but it was the visitors that started the brighter as they forced a succession of corners early on.
It was from a set-piece that Cork took the lead as a half cleared corner in the box was played back in with Maguire reacting first to power a header beyond goalkeeper Stephen McGuinness.
Cork were placing with power and pace as Drogheda struggled to get a foothold in the game as Karl Sheppard got beyond Stephen Dunne at the back post but his cross/shot was diverted wide.
Drogheda created their first chance of the game on 19 minutes as a deep cross from Dunne found Elliott unmarked but the former Ireland international’s first-time effort was parried behind for a corner.
From the resulting set-piece, Drogheda were level as the ball broke to Ciaran McGuigan and his goal-bound strike was flicked by Elliott beyond Mark McNulty from close range.
The hosts were reduced to ten men only two minutes later when a late tackle from Purdy on Steven Beattie resulted in referee Derek Tomney producing a red card much to the anger and astonishment of the home crowd.
With the tone of the game now set, Cork dominated possession before eventually retaking the lead on the stroke of half-time as Morrissey’s near-post run saw him divert the ball beyond McGuinness from six-yards.
Drogheda struggled to re-group after the break and they fell further behind on 50 minutes when a corner-kick from the right was punched clear to the edge of the box and Sheppard produced a fine first-time volley into the empty net.
Cork squandered several chances to put the game to bed with substitutes Achille Campion and Eliis missing the target before the latter made it two goals in two games as he fired high into the roof of the net deep into stoppage time.
A damaging night for the Drogs who will be keen to put in a better performance when they face Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds on Monday.
Luke Gallagher (Lloyd Buckley 62’)
Thomas Byrne (Shane Elworthy 56’)
Stephen Elliott (Gareth McCaffrey 70’)
Kevin O’Connor (Shane Griffin 81)
Gearoid Morrissey (Conor Ellis 75)
Shane Maguire (Achille Campion 56)
Sean Maguire 7’
Gearoid Morrissey 43’
Karl Sheppard 50’
Conor Ellis 90’
Richie Purdy (red) 22’