City star Maguire didn’t score but he made the difference again in beating Dundalk

City star Maguire didn’t score but he made the difference again in beating Dundalk
Cork's Sean Maguire and Patrick Barrett of Dundalk. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Barbara O'Connell

Soccer

THE statistics will show that Seanie Maguire's goal scoring run in the Airtricty league came to an end on Saturday afternoon when he failed to hit the net in City's 2-1 victory over Dundalk.

The goal scoring hero this time was man of the match Karl Sheppard whose excellently taken goals in the 22nd and 37th minute helped City to claim all three points and more importantly open up a six-point lead over the defending champions.

But don't let the statistics fool you. Cork City won this game because of the personal performance of Maguire who in the first half was simply unplayable and gave Brian Gartland, Chris Shields and Paddy Barrett a torrid time. Every time the in form striker ran at the Dundalk defence he caused havoc and it was from his two excellent passes at the end of two fantastic runs that saw Sheppard score twice.

Sheppard's first came in the 22nd minute after Maguire picked up the ball just inside the Dundalk half on the left side of the pitch. He immediately bore down on goal and left the Dundalk defence for dead and just when you thought he was about to shoot himself he rolled the perfect pass across to Sheppard who had the simple task of scoring into an empty net from five yards out.

This goal came in the perfect time for City. Despite dominating and setting the tone from the opening seconds City hadn't really threatened the Dundalk goal up to that point. From here to the end of the half City and Maguire were sensational.

The second goal when it came in the 37th minute will have annoyed Dundalk for a number of reasons. Firstly they had just enjoyed their best period of possession and secondly looked to be denied a blatant penalty in the 35th minute when it appeared a combination of Mark McNulty and Ryan Delaney had upended Ciaran Kilduff and from our view point it looked a clear penalty. 

Referee Robert Rogers refused to budge and within seconds Dundalk had gone from an opportunity to go level from the panalty spot to two goals down and in serious trouble.

The second goal was a carbon copy of the first in that we saw Maguire pick up the ball in midfield and the Kilkenny man played the perfect first time ball in behind the Dundalk defence for Sheppard to run on to. Sheppard who only started the game thanks to a late withdrawal by Steven Beattie who picked up a slight hamstring injury did remarkably well to spot what Maguire was going to do, and racing on to the perfect pass, his first touch was excellent and it allowed him to roll the ball around the on rushing Gary Rogers and fire in to an empty net.

City were now two up, in control, playing the better football and the 6,700 City fans in the ground had the place rocking. On a perfect afternoon with the sun shining and the game going out to a live TV audience, there was no place I would rather have been.

I was watching the two heavy weights of the league go head to head and as in their recent clashes City were the better side and deserved their lead.

The City squad is excellent with every player more than doing their bit. Others to impress in that opening half were Gearoid Morrissey who controlled the midfield, Stephen Dooley on the left wing, Kevin O'Connor at full back, and McNuty in goal, all playing superbly and winning their individual battle.

The second half saw a more determined Dundalk outfit return to the field and when they did up their intensity it troubled Cork City. They came storming back into the contest and in the 72th minute when McEleney played the perfect pass to substitute David McMillan who fired home from the edge of the box.

I was so looking forward to seeing McEleney live and also Conor Clifford, Dundalk's two big pre season signings but thanks to some excellent work by the City defence and midfielders, neither had any impact on the game.

Dundalk's goal did see City revert back into their shell and for the last 20 minutes they appeared to defend too deep at times and allowed Dundalk come onto them in huge numbers. That Dundalk momentum was halted in the 84th minute when Ciara Kilduff was sent off after picking up his second yellow card for a foul on McCormack. City were rarely troubled for the remainder of the game and were very good value for this win.

It's six wins from six games and with a local derby to come next Friday night away to Limerick, City have a great chance to open up a serious gap at the top. Based on the team's current form and that of Sean Maguire, it is gonna take one hell of a team to stop them from winning the league.

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