Report from SSEAirtricityLeague.ie
Cork City’s European aspirations are over for another season at least as they were narrowly beaten by Progrés Niederkorn 3-2 on aggregate in the Europa League first-round qualifier.
A stunning volley from Garry Buckley and a Conor McCarthy header did see City win the second leg 2-1 in Luxembourg on Thursday night but their 2-0 loss in the first leg ultimately proved to be decisive in the end.
Garry Buckley gave City the dream start in the second leg as he found the back of the net after just three minutes with a superb volley.
That was the club’s first goal in European competition since Seán Maguire scored against Levadia Tallinn back in 2017, a run that had also seen them lose all seven of those previous games in European football.
The Leesiders dominated the first half but they couldn’t find that crucial second goal before the break with Joel Coustrain, Karl Sheppard and Daire O’Connor all going closing to grabbing it.
But City maintained that intensity at the beginning of the second half and they finally made it 2-0 when Conor McCarthy headed home off the inside of the back post from close range.
McNulty made an excellent save low to his right to keep his side level on aggregate but he was beaten with 22 minutes remaining when Issa Bah blasted the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
Cork, to their credit responded well to that set back as they knew one more goal would still be good enough to see them progress to the second round where they would meet Steven Gerrard’s Rangers.
They had their opportunities but it just wasn’t to be as Sean McLoughlin headed a decent opening wide before Kevin O’Connor emerged from the bench and curled a free kick over the bar for the last kick off the game.
City ended an eight-game winless run in all competitions with this triumph but it wasn’t enough to see them through as Progrés Niederkorn progress.
Referee: Matthew De Gabriele (Malta).