A hat-trick from striker Ethon Varian helped Cork City beat Castleview 4-1 and qualify the club for the Munster Senior Cup semi-finals for the sixth consecutive season on Monday evening at O’Sullivan Park.
The loanee from Bohemians netted once in the first half and twice after the break, and that has set up a meeting with Waterford in the next round of the cup.
It was the club’s first competitive game back since they brought the curtain down on their First Division triumph and Colin Healy’s team showed no signs of rust.
They started quickly and forced an early chance through Gordon Walker, who parted the Castleview defence with a through ball to Varian.
The on-loan striker couldn’t connect but this did nothing to his confidence as one of Varian’s next touches saw him knock in the opening goal from the third corner of the game.
This start followed a mild chance for Castleview, which saw Jimmy Corocan diving low to stop a tame effort from Timothy Power.
The Rebel Army should have heeded this as a warning, especially with the early goal.
The Munster Senior League side responded aggressively and they were rightfully rewarded with O’Donoghue’s equaliser.
This followed an excellent passage of play through the centre that saw Power link up with Kieran Kenneally and he fed it through to their striker on the edge of the area.
One of Castleview’s first corners then gave O’Donoghue an opportunity to make it 2-1 but his attempt was blocked by a scrambling City defence.
It was a culture shock of a first half for Healy’s team as they had to battle heavy winds, a story that Jimmy Corcoran can personally attest to as one kick-out from the goalkeeper ended up going out for a Castleview corner.
City were a lot more comfortable after the break and they dominated possession with Arran Healy and Gordon Walker spraying passes to the forward line. It didn’t take too long for the right ball to land at Varian’s feet, and he dinked this in over the Castleview goalkeeper.
The home side pushed up from the restart and a driven attempt from Gerard Kelleher led to Corocran making an excellent save.
The next piece of defensive brilliance was from Castleview’s Dean Leahy, who stopped a shot from Gordon Walker on the line. This was the start of a period that led to City knocking in two quick goals and killing the tie.
Zach Dunne set up Varian for his third, and a simple finish inside the box completed his hat-trick. Then an attempt from distance from Healy drifted in at the bottom right corner and a comfortable cushion with 15 minutes remaining.
Castleview emptied their bench, trying to ignite some form of a comeback.
Every member of City’s backline was organised to deal with this, with Corcoran catching crosses and Jonas Häkkinen breaking up play with expert precision.
The end result ended up as a rather routine win for a team that was returning to competive football after nearly three months.
City will now face Waterford in the semi-finals at a neutral venue, a fixture that was last played in this competition in 2018.
That is a good omen for Healy’s team as their last match-up with the Blues in the Munster Senior Cup ended in a victory over St Mary’s in the final.
Paul Hunt; David Grant O’Sullivan (Mark O’Donnell 90), David Brookes, Vincent Lonergan, Dean Leahy (Dane Holland 84), Gerard Kelleher, Darren O’Sullivan, Timothy Power (Dylan Doherty 68), Patrick O’Donoghue, Kieran Kenneally (Eoin Ryan 75), Kieran Kavanagh (Stuart Murphy 68).
Jimmy Corcoran; Gordon Walker (Eanna Fitzgerald 77), Matt Healy, Cian Bargary (Colin Henderson 77), Darragh Crowley, Ethon Varian (Josh Fitzpatrick 67), John O'Donovan, Arran Healy, Sam Bailey, Zachary Dunne, Jonas Häkkinen.