Dundalk FC manager Stephen Kenny. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division
Cork City 0-1 Dundalk FC
There was white smoke at Turner’s Cross on Friday night, Lilywhite smoke.
Dundalk FC’s 1-0 victory over their nearest, perennial rivals, Cork City, has the Oriel Park side within touching distance of a 13th Premier Division crown, and a fourth in five seasons.
Their first win at the Leeside venue in six meetings and three-and-a-half years was as sweet as it was significant. Dundalk now sit nine clear ahead of Tuesday night’s game-in-hand at home to Derry City, with Cork having only 12 points left to play for. Add to this Dundalk’s far superior goal difference, of 24 goals, and the title would, effectively, be secured with a triumph over the Candystripes, who, themselves, have only pride left to play for.
And while it remains mathematically a possibility that the champions can retain the championship, there were blatant signs here to suggest all is not well in the Cork dressing room. To accompany an injury list which included Alan Bennett and Karl Sheppard, Barry McNamee and Josh O’Hanlon were surprisingly absent from their team sheet.
Their night was made worse at half-time when manager John Caulfield was ordered to spend the second half in the stands following an altercation away from the public eye - the second occasion the City boss has been ordered off against the Lilywhites this year.
It later transpired that the he was involved in a physical altercation with Dundalk assistant manager Vinny Perth as the teams headed for the dressing rooms.
A seventh league loss of the campaign is also a record in the Roscommon man’s reign.
On the field, Dundalk were deserving victors and though Chris Shields’ third minute goal was all that stood in the difference, the visitors were comfortably superior.
His third finish of the campaign, the midfielder linked nicely with the outstanding Patrick Hoban on the edge of the area before firing a shot which nicked off the heel of Conor McCarthy and past the rooted Mark McNulty.
Needless to say, with the breakthrough coming just a couple of metres from the away section, the scenes of celebration would have brought a grin to Kenny’s face. The travelling contingent of almost 500 were a credit to themselves on the night.
Although never overly stretched, Dundalk ‘keeper Gary Rogers had to pull off a few stops before the break and while McNulty was tested little more over the remainder of the affair, the Lilywhites continued to pose a menacing look offensively, even if the match became progressively more focused on the midfield exchanges.
The boisterous travelling contingent often chanted: ‘You’re not champions anymore’, and while not strictly true, they were merely referring to the inevitable.
This was a coronation, of sorts.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Steven Beattie, Conor McCarthy, Seán McLoughlin, Shane Griffin; Gearóid Morrissey, Conor McCormack (Damien Delaney 89), Garry Buckley (Rónán Coughlan 61); Jimmy Keohane, Graham Cummins (Shane Daly-Butz 71), Kieran Sadlier
Subs not used: Peter Cherrie (gk), Aaron Barry, Pierce Phillips, Ronan Hurley
Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers; Seán Gannon, Brian Gartland, Seán Hoare, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson (Dean Jarvis 86); John Mountney, Patrick McEleney (Jamie McGrath 75), Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban (Georgie Kelly 90)
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), Daniel Cleary, Dylan Connolly, Ronan Murray
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin)
Attendance: 4,310 (official)