03 November 2008

Cork City win the Setanta Cup 2008

Here's my match report for ExtraTime.ie

Original article here

Turner's Cross, Saturday 1 November 2008

Cork City emerged victorious from an absolutely enthralling Setanta Cup final at Turner’s Cross tonight. Second-half goals from captain Dan Murray and wide man Liam Kearney turned the tie in the Leesiders’ favour after Kyle Neill had fired Glentoran into a first-half lead.

It was a full-blooded contest which threatened the boil over on more than one occasion, but the enthusiasm shown by both teams was a great credit to their respective managers. Both sides gave their all, and whilst City’s strong second-half showing was to prove decisive, the visitors exerted an awesome hold on proceedings in the first period.

Sadly, the tie was marred by some ugly scenes both inside and outside the ground. A local publican was reportedly hospitalised after an altercation with a group of visiting supporters, and on one more than one occasion a particular section of the Glentoran support were seen to be throwing objects in the direction of City players.

But despite all of that the true spirit of sportsmanship shone through, with both sets of fans taking turns in applauding their opposition as the medals were distributed after full time.

In a game played a frenetic pace for much of the 90 minutes the visitors opened by far the stronger. Their aggression, physicality and sheer bloody-mindedness clearly unnerved Cork during the opening period, and they deservedly took the lead inside the quarter hour mark.

With the ball moving rapidly from one end of the field to the other mistimed tackles were a frequent occurrence, with Cork’s Joe Gamble the first of five players to see yellow. With 12 minutes played, referee Ian Stokes awarded a free to the visitors just outside the area. Cork protested the decision furiously, but Kyle Neill showed a cool head as he stepped up and drilled the ball home into the bottom right hand corner of McNulty’s goal.

Try as they might, City struggled to break down the resolute Glens defence. Denied time and space on the ball in final third, Cork’s attempts to play around the visitors floundered as they found themselves aggressively hustled off the ball and forced into making hasty passes. When they tried to play a more direct game they found no further profit. Denis Behan may be used to bullying defenders in the Eircom League, but up against Philip Simpson and Sean Ward his physical presence was blunted. Lawrie Dudfield has proven as asset with his back to goal since his signing in July, but all too often he was left crowded out and isolated.

City’s best chance of the half came on 24 minutes from a lofted ball forward. Dudfield cushioned a header into the path of Liam Kearney, but Morris Elliott was down quickly to smother his shot. Two minutes later, City’s Pat Sullivan hacked the ball clear from the line after Neill’s free evaded everyone else.

A Danny Murphy foul on the touchline caused a melee seven minutes before the interval, with the Cork left-back foolishly being booked for dissent after matters had calmed down. Nothing much was going right for the hosts, but if there was any solace they could take from the opening half, it was the feeling that surely their part-time opponents would be unable to maintain the same level of intensity for the full 90 minutes.

It was also going to take a vastly improved second-half showing from the the Rebels and, from their point of view, whatever words Alan Matthews had to say in the dressing room appeared to have the desired effect. They opened brightly, playing with more poise and verve as they began to find their passing rhythm.

A clear telltale sign of the Belfast team’s increasing weariness was the in the incessant time-wasting of Elliott at goal-kicks. Looking leaden-legged as City moved the ball around at pace, they were forced to drop back deeper deeper. The threat posed on the break by Hamilton and Scullion diminished but their determined defending continued to frustrate the hosts.

Clearly, a game-breaking moment was required if City were to get back on terms and on 56 minutes Dan Murray duly obliged. After some tenacious work by Alan O’Connor on the byline, City won a corner on the right. Danny Murphy, taking over the kicking duties from Liam Kearney, whipped the ball across to the back post where his captain, unmarked, was perfectly positioned to prod the ball home. It was a hammer blow for the visitors, and they never quite recovered.

Glentoran tried to stem the tide, bringing on Waterworth and McGovern for Scullion and Halliday respectively. Kearney was in full flow, coming in for some rough treatment from his opponents. Dudfield too was beginning to figure more prominently, and after playing a couple of one-twos with Gamble, fed Behan who thundered an effort over from outside the area.

It appeared to be only matter of time before Cork would complete their turnaround, and the decisive moment came with 15 minutes remaining. A ball floated in from the right found the head of Behan. Dudfield didn’t make the best of connections, but up popped Kearney to turn the ball home. In the jubilant scenes that followed, several objects were hurled at the City players by Glens fans, with the Gardai having to move in to quell the unrest.

Not content to sit on their one goal lead, Cork continued to place Glentoran under severe pressure for the remainder of the game. Behan was desperately unlucky not to make it 3-1 five minutes from time, with Dudfield also coming close to extending the margin.

Kearney was eventually forced off injured in the final minute having become the target of the the visiting side’s frustration, but that mattered little in the end as the hosts coasted home to claim their first Setanta Sports Cup triumph. The final whistle sparked scenes not witnessed at the Cross since Cork’s dramatic last day title win over Derry in 2005.

Cork City 4-4-2: Mark McNulty; Neal Horgan, Dan Murray, Pat Sullivan, Danny Murphy; Alan O’Connor, Joe Gamble, Darren Murphy, Liam Kearney; Denis Behan, Lawrie Dudfield.
Substitutions: Darragh Ryan for Liam Kearney (89 minutes)
Not used: Michael Devine, Eoin Forde, Cillian Lordan, Gareth Cambridge, Timmy Kiely, Sean Kelly.
Booked: Gamble (11 Minutes); Danny Murphy (39 minutes); Darren Murphy (89 minutes).
Goals: Murray (56 minutes); Kearney (75 minutes).

Glentoran 4-4-2: Morris Elliott; Colin Nixon (Captain), Philip Simpson, Sean Ward, Johnny Taylor; David Scullion, Shane McCabe, Daryl Fordyce, Kyle Neill; Michael Halliday, Gary Hamilton.
Substitutions: Andy Waterworth for Scullion (60 minutes); Jamie McGovern for Halliday (70 Minutes); Dean Fitzgerald for Fordyce (78 minutes).
Not used: James Taylor, Darren Boyce, Grant Gardiner, Johnny Black.
Booked: Simpson (22 minutes); Hamilton (82 minutes).
Goals: Neill (13 minutes).

Referee: Ian Stokes

Official Man of the Match: Dan Murray.

Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Liam Kearney. Murray was certainty a strong contender for the man of the match gong, providing stout leadership and stepping up to score the all important equalising goal. But a large chunk of City’s improved second-half showing was down to the energy and invention of the impish Conna winger. A succession of tough challenged, some of which surely merited cautions, did little to dent Kearney’s enthusiasm and his winning goal was a fitting tribute to a marvellous second-half performance.

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