By Denis Hurley for EchoLive.ie
Dundalk sub Georgie Kelly was the matchwinner as Cork City suffered their third defeat in eight days, going down at Oriel Park on Friday night.
While there was again much of the Rebel Army’s performance to be satisfied with, the quality of the Lilywhites told and they remain on course for a fifth league title in six years while Neale Fenn is still searching for his points as City head coach.
City had three changes from Monday’s loss to Waterford. Colm Horgan returned at right-back instead of U19 player Josh Honohan while injured duo Garry Buckley and Karl Sheppard were replaced by Ronan Hurley and Alec Byrne.
The expected pattern of the game was for City to do their best to repel the considerable Dundalk pressure and then take whatever half-chances they could generate at the other end and so it proved, before a crowd of 2,837.
Right-back Seán Gannon was the primary creative outlet for the champions in the first half, providing inviting crosses on more than one occasion, but City’s defence held firm and goalkeeper Tadhg Ryan wasn’t called on to deal with any clear-cut chances in the first half. Nevertheless, Dundalk always looked menacing and Patrick Hoban was twice unlucky to be off-target following crosses while Robbie Benson was unlucky as the ball ricocheted off him and into Ryan’s hands after a good Conor McCormack challenge on Michael Duffy in the area. Soon after that, a Gannon cross deflected off Shane Griffin and the ball looped over Ryan as he came to claim it but Dan Casey was on hand to deal with the danger.
City’s best opportunity in the opening period came when Shane Griffin’s low cross was dummied by Mark O’Sullivan for Eoghan Stokes but Andy Boyle got in a strong block.
It remained 1-0 at half-time but Dundalk came out with renewed intensity on the resumption and they might have had some joy within three minutes but Duffy’s marauding run was halted illegally by Colm Horgan on the edge of the area.
McEleney’s free kick came to nothing but the chances continued to flow, with Chris Shields and Robbie Benson having efforts from distance while a Hoban ball across the goal needed only the slightest touch.
Just after the hour, McEleney twice went close, first denied by a fine Ryan save and then having a shot deflected wide. City were camped in their own half and it was no surprise that when the deadlock was finally broken it was by the hosts.
Sub Georgie Kelly was the man to get the goal, netting with his first touch from Gannon’s cross after McEleny had found him on the right with a fine diagonal ball.
There was time for City to search for an equaliser, especially with five minutes added, but Dundalk were too canny to allow any chances and the Lilywhites took the points.
Referee: Ben Connolly.