DFC | Duffy’s towering header leaves Cork’s title challenge on the ropes

SSE Airtricity League Premier Division Game #7 | Oriel Park
Dundalk FC 1–0 Cork City

Vinny Perth celebrates Dundalk’s win at the full-time whistle. Picture: Ciaran Culligan

Michael Duffy popped up with a priceless header to secure Vinny Perth’s Dundalk side a hugely important win against their bitter rivals at Oriel Park on Friday night.

European U22 boxing champion Amy Broadhurst was introduced to the crowd at half-time but it was Duffy who landed the knockout blow that leaves the Leesiders’ title hopes on the ropes.

Beginning the evening nine points adrift of leaders Shamrock Rovers, this was a chance for Cork to make their presence felt in the title race but they slumped to defeat without laying a glove on the league champions and sit marooned in sixth place.

John Caulfield was able to call on a number of his trusted lieutenants with Gearoid Morrissey and Karl Sheppard proving their fitness to start the game. In contrast, the hosts started with four of the five midfielders who played in last November’s FAI Cup final between the sides missing through injury.

Duffy was the sole survivor of that quintet and he posed a threat right from the off, combining delightfully on the edge of the box with Patrick Hoban in the seventh minute only to see Mark McNulty spring from his line and divert the ball behind for a corner.

Caulfield was forced into an early reshuffle when Colm Horgan limped off in the ninth minute to be replaced by Garry Comerford. Shane Griffin was handed the unenviable task of trying to shackle Duffy at right-back and the visitors never really got to grips with things after that.

Dundalk winger Michael Duffy is denied by Mark McNulty. Picture: Ciaran Culligan
Dundalk centre-back Daniel Cleary beats Graham Cummins of Cork City to this ball. Picture: Ciaran Culligan

Some of the home fans thought the Lilywhites winger had opened the scoring in the 17th minute with a left-footed effort that hit the side netting. Two minutes later, he treated again, fizzing one just wide of the upright.

Cork struggled to piece anything together in the final third. Karl Sheppard did test Gary Rogers early on while Kevin O’Connor fired over with a free-kick that he will feel was well within his range. Apart from that, it was pretty uninspiring stuff from the 2017 double winners.

Dundalk always looked the most likely and they took a one-goal lead into the break. Jamie McGrath was the creator, making a yard of space on the left before hanging one up for Duffy, who got there a fraction of a second before Comerford to beat McNulty.

Dundalk’s Sean Murray gets away from Garry Buckley of Cork City. Picture: Ciaran Culligan
Dundalk’s Jamie McGrath rises high to meet this ball. Picture: Ciaran Culligan

Caulfield had his goalkeeper to thank for keeping Cork in the game early on in the second half, McNulty making a stunning save to tip Hoban’s goalbound header over the top.

Things became extremely scrappy after that with Cork going increasingly more direct to try and salvage something but Gary Rogers and his back four never really looked flustered.

The hosts had to endure four nervy minutes of additional time were Duffy passed up a great chance to make it 2–0. In truth, though, the result was never really in doubt and for the first time since 2013, it looks like Cork may find it hard to keep pace with the challengers.

DUNDALK FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Dane Massey; Sean Hoare, Sean Murray (Dean Jarvis 77); Daniel Kelly (Cameron Dummigan 87), Jamie McGrath (John Mountney 90), Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban. Subs not used: Aaron McCarey (GK), Georgie Kelly, Joe McKee, Jordan Flores.

CORK CITY: Mark McNulty; Colm Horgan (Garry Comerford 9) (Alan Bennett HT), Conor McCarthy, Sean McLoughlin, Kevin O’Connor (Dan Smith 82); Conor McCormack, Garry Buckley; Karl Sheppard, Gearoid Morrissey, Shane Griffin; Graham Cummins. Subs not used: Tadgh Ryan (GK), Darragh Rainsford, Pierce Philips, Liam Nash.

REFEREE: Paul McLaughlin. ATTENDANCE: 3,783.