Tommy Dunne’s charges were incredibly clinical in front of goal and a hat-trick from Graham Cummins, a fabulous strike from Davin O’Neill and another from Vincent Escude-Candau rounded off a huge win for the home team against a Harps side that are still to win this season.
The Ballybofey outfit have now gone four games without scoring, a disappointing return, but this tie was all about the attacking prowess of the home side because it was a performance that will strike fear at their other promotion challengers.
Strangely, Harps started brighter than any side at Turner’s Cross so far this season, with the lively attacking duo of Oisin McMenamin and Kevin McHugh linking-up well for the travelling outfit. The former coasted past Cork defender Gavin Kavanagh four minutes in, only to scuff his shot into the hands of Mark McNulty, with Conor O’Grady and Gareth Harkin both shooting narrowly over from distance.
But all of that good work in the opening stages succumbed to nothing as Cork took the lead with their first chance of the game. O’Neill, arguably the Leesiders’ best player to date this season, chipped a delightful ball into the path of Cummins. He held off the challenge of Paddy McLaughlin before striking a clinical left-footed finish under the legs of Ciaran Gallagher and into the net.
It was a stark change from the usual pattern of play served up by City to date. Prior to this game they had dominated but failed to convert their chances . On this outing it couldn’t have been more different because O’Neill and Cummins both combined again to double the home side’s advantage after 20. O’Neill galloped down the left flank and his cross flew through a cluster of players before Cummins finished with ease at the back-post.
Harps were then dealt a terrible blow 25 minutes in as Ciaran Coll came off horribly from a clash with Vinny Sullivan and he was stretchered off, writhing in agony. Coll, disappointingly, is likely to be missing for sometime, a desperate fate to bestow on the 19 year-old who also missed out on the bulk of last season with a cruciate injury.
The away side were still capable of threatening the Cork rearguard and Harps could have easily grabbed one back when Kevin McHugh’s effort bobbled in front of McNulty. He uncomfortably parried the ball away, Mark Forker almost crept in to steal the sloppy seconds, but the ‘keeper just managed to smother the ball in time.
As a whole it was an incredibly frustrating night for Harps. They held onto a lot of possession, more than any other side that have faced City at the ‘Cross this year but couldn’t find that incisive pass to get past Kavanagh and the impressive Kalen Spillane and with 63 minutes gone the game was completely killed off as a contest.
A lack of urgency from the Harps defence saw O’Neill in acres of space thirty yards out, he took a touch to edge towards goal and unleashed an absolutely fantastic right footed effort which swung into the far corner of the net.
City were rampant at this point, and unable to rest on their laurels French midfielder Escude-Candau grabbed his first league goal for the club with a calm and collected finish from ten yards out, slotting the ball low into the net with Gallagher coming off his line.
A training ground exercise was the best way to describe how Cork treated the final stages and Cummins was chopped down inside the area with seven minutes to go by Keith Cowan. The striker dusted himself down and slotted the ball straight down the middle to round up his hat-trick.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Neal Horgan, Kalen Spillane, Gavin Kavanagh, Danny Murphy; Davin O’Neill (Ian Turner, 83mins), Shane Duggan, Greg O’Halloran (Vincent Escude-Candau, 56mins), Gearoid Morrissey; Graham Cummins (Timmy Kiely, 83mins), Vinny Sullivan.
Subs not used: James McCarthy, Kieran Keneally, Simon Holland, Rory Morrissey.
Booked: Duggan (37).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Packie Mailey, Paddy McLaughlin, Ciaran Coll (Gary Whoriskey, 26mins); Mark Forker, Conor O’Grady, Tommy Bonner (Christy Connaghton, 69mins), Gareth Harkin; Kevin McHugh, Oisin McMenamin (Keith Cowan, 69mins).
Subs not used: Aaron O’Hagan, Chris Patton, Gary Merritt.
Booked: Bonner (51).
Referee: John Grimes.