By Denis Hurley for EchoLive.ie
Cork City got their first points of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division season as Alec Byrne’s 55th-minute header proved to be the winner at Turner’s Cross.
A crowd of 2,367 was present as Neale Fenn’s side got off the mark, improving in the second half despite the disappointment of losing goalkeeper Liam Bossin to a suspected concussion just before half-time. While a second, insurance goal wasn’t forthcoming, City avoided the concession of a late equaliser, as had happened against Harps last April in what proved to be John Caulfield’s final game in charge.
City went with the same starting 11 as in the game away to Shamrock Rovers last Friday, as Deshane Dalling returned from suspension following a red card in that game, replacing Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh, who had come in for him at Dundalk on Monday.
Harps had four points from their first two games and also had the benefit of extra rest as their clash with Shelbourne had been postponed and they offered a lot in the first half, with Ruairí Harkin setting the tone with a long-range effort which wasn’t far over in the 12th minute.
Former City man Barry McNamee was doing well to find space in the Harps midfield, though centre-back Joe Redmond was excelling for City. At the other end, there was an early bright spot as Dáire O’Connor made good headway from the right but his pullback was just behind Dylan McGlade, who fired over.
On 14, Harps defender Kosovar Sadiki headed over from a McNamee corner and then two minutes later Ryan Connolly was fouled for a free kick 30 yards out, with Harkin’s low effort wide of the target.
Shortly before the half-hour, McNamee’s lovely through ball gave Karl O’Sullivan a chance but Liam Bossin was quick off his line to save with his leg and Alex Kogler slipped as he tried to get to the loose ball.
When City captain Gearóid Morrissey drew a foul on 34, McGlade’s free kick was straight at Mark Anthony McGinley in the Harps goal. As half-time approached, Morrissey had an effort of his own which was half-blocked, but there was some high drama before the break.
In injury time, a low shot by Harkin couldn’t be held by Bossin, and just as he tried to get to the loose ball, Kogler slid in to poke the ball home, but not without catching Bossin’s head with his knee.
Despite this, referee Neil Doyle gave the goal but, as the gravity of Bossin’s situation became clear, the decision was reversed after consultation with his assistant. This naturally caused delight for the City fans in the Shed End, with Harps manager Ollie Horgan apoplectic and goalkeeper and captain McGinley, who ran the length of the field to remonstrate, to no avail.
With Bossin stretchered off, he was replaced by veteran Mark McNulty, making his first appearance since Fenn’s first game in charge, against Sligo Rovers last August.
The half-time whistle sounded soon after, and City were much better on the resumption with Dalling, in particular, showing signs of danger in sending a low shot wide from outside the area and then forcing McGinley to save with his legs following an effort from a tight angle.
City were exerting almost all of the pressure and when a Dáire O’Connor cross led to a corner in the 55th minute, Dylan McGlade’s delivery was headed home by Byrne.
Another almost followed soon after as Dalling came in from the left and sent a low effort off the post, O’Connor following up to poke home, but the flag was up for offside.
Harps persevered and were almost rewarded midway through the half as Kogler’s header set Ryan Connolly away. When he squared for Kogler, only a Ronan Hurley block on the goal-line prevented an equaliser.
David Webster went close too, volleying wide after a City defensive header fell to him, while Dalling went close to a second, curling a shot just over. Thankfully for City, they didn’t need it.
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).