A late goal from Ciarán Kilduff condemned Cork City to defeat in their opening SSE Airtricity League Premier Division game on Friday night.
Before a crowd of 3,961 at Turner’s Cross, City battled well and looked to have done enough to claim a point only for Kilduff – who had a loan spell with the club in 2013 – to steal all three points as he headed home following a scramble after Karl Sheppard’s corner in the 86th minute.
While City pressed for an equaliser after that, their efforts were in vain and they must try to bounce back in tough away games against Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk over the next ten days.
Not since the club’s first league game in 1984 were so many debutants on show, with City fielding eight players who were making their competitive bows. Only new captain Gearóid Morrissey, Ronan Hurley and Dáire O’Connor were survivors from the forgettable 2019 campaign, with Morrissey the sole representative from the 2017 double-winning campaign.
Shels had as many, with Sheppard making his debut for them, while Kilduff was also in Ian Morris’s side.
The visitors almost got off to a great start, winger Dayle Rooney firing wide after slipping past one of City’s new boys, Kyron Stabana, but it was the only real chance of a frantic opening. When things settled, City showed sparks of quality, not least from centre-back Joseph Olowu, who joined on loan from Arsenal, Henry Ochieng and Dylan McGlade on the left wing.
Just before the half-hour, City pieced together their best move up to then. Cian Coleman, playing alongside Morrissey on his return to the club, drove forward from midfield and fed O’Connor, who in turn sent the ball wide to Stabana, but his cross was just too high for centre-forward Reyon Dillon.
However, coming up to half-time, Shels’ Ryan Brennan went closer than anyone as Rooney’s cross from the left found him at the back post but the header came back off the woodwork. From a corner soon after, Sheppard’s delivery was headed over by Brennan. In injury time, Dillon had a half-chance, shooting over from a narrow angle following a good ball forward by Olowu.
Shels had the better of things on the resumption. Rooney, who was dangerous throughout, went close with a 25-yard free kick and just after the hour-mark Seán Quinn played in Kilduff but Bossin was quick off his line to save with his legs.
City introduced winger Deshane Dalling, signed on loan from Queens Park Rangers during the week, as McGlade’s influence waned and he almost won a penalty immediately after his arrival but referee Adriano Reale waved away the shouts.
Midway through the half, Morrissey did well to force a turnover close to the Shels goal after a short goal-kick and Dillon had sight of goal but Daniel O’Reilly was on hand to clear. The best opportunity came with 12 minutes remaining as O’Connor’s cross from the right found Olowu unmarked but while he rose higher than anyone – as he did most of the night – he was just unable to find the target.
Referee: Adriano Reale.