Report by Alan Smith (www.extratime.ie)
Two clinical penalties and a late strike from Graham Cummins meant Cork City booked their place in the EA Sports Cup final at the hands of local rivals Limerick, though they needed extra-time as they came from behind for the second time in four days to win on home soil.
While the pretext to this semi-final tie was as interesting as the game itself – both Joe Gamble and Denis Behan making their first return to Turner’s Cross in a blue shirt – it ended up being a decent enough tie. Though it was unlikely to reach the lofty heights of last Friday’s game for the home support, there was still some decent football played on a lovely August evening.
Similarly to Friday, it was the travelling team that broke the deadlock early on after a decent start. Gamble fed Paudie Quinn just outside the area, he turned but was dispossessed by a fine challenge from Shane Duggan. Unfortunately for the Limerick-born City midfielder, the ball trickled into the path of Peter Hynes and he produced an assured finish, curling the ball into the bottom right corner of the net from the edge of the area.
City steadied after a while and with Davin O’Neill and Derek O’Brien both lively on either flank, they soon started to make inroads in breaking down the Treatymen. Vinny Sullivan spurned two glorious first-half chances, while Cummins and Shane Duggan had efforts blocked, but the equaliser arrived shortly before the half hour mark.
O’Brien cut in from the left flank and he was hauled down by Peter White, with referee Rob Rogers pointing towards the spot. Davin O’Neill, the hero from Friday night’s win, stepped up to send Barry Ryan the wrong way from 12 yards and resume parity.
For the bulk of the game from that point onwards, City held the larger share of possession but the second-half proved to be one of very few chances. With a very fragmented game played mostly in the middle third, the pick of the chances in the third quarter of the game came from O’Brien when his shot fizzed two yards wide of Ryan’s right-hand side upright.
The middle section of the second period contained nothing that will live in the memory, but nearing the end the game started to open up as Cummins flashed wide. It was Limerick who enjoyed a decent spell of dominance then, however, as Pat Purcell headed wide in plenty of space, while Joe Gamble had Mark McNulty scrambling on 81 minutes after Greg O’Halloran conceded possession cheaply, though the former Irish international’s effort flew wide to the left.
There was one more glorious chance for the away team deep in injury time though as McNulty was caught in two minds and Paudie Quinn’s effort looked to be heading goalwards. Danny Murphy was on hand to get a heroic leg to the goalbound strike though, clearing the danger to bring the game to an additional half hour.
City dominated the opening half of extra-time and they finally made the difference 103 minutes in when Sullivan was hauled down by Brian McCarthy with a rugby-like challenge, using his hand to grab the striker’s leg, and Vincent Escudé-Candau stepped up to strike an almost carbon copy of the Leesiders’ opening goal, sending Ryan the wrong way once more.
Limerick fought hard to try and find an equaliser in the remaining 15 minutes, but City defended astutely to close out the game and they will now go on to meet the winner of Sligo Rovers and Derry City in the final after Cummins struck three minutes from the end when he was allowed to waltz into the area unmarked after Limerick threw everyone forward.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Ian Turner, Gavin Kavanagh, Kalen Spillane, Danny Murphy; Davin O’Neill (Vincent Escudé-Candau, 80mins), Shane Duggan, Greg O’Halloran, Derek O’Brien (Eoin McGreevy, 98mins); Vinny Sullivan, Graham Cummins (Danny Morrissey, 119mins).
Subs not used: Craig Burns, James McCarthy, Neal Horgan.
Limerick: Barry Ryan; Andrew Bhandarkar (John Frost, 73mins), Brian McCarthy, Paddy Purcell, Peter White; Peter Hynes (Sean Brosnan, 67mins), Shane Tracy, Joe Gamble, Jeffrey Judge (David O’Leary, 88); Denis Behan, Paudie Quinn.
Subs not used: Shane Cusack, Sean O’Callaghan, Garbhan Broughall, Garbhan Coughlan.
Referee: Rob Rogers.
Official Attendance: 2059.