An opportunistic second-half brace from Shane Duggan catapulted Cork City back into joint-second in the Airtricity League First Division table after they ended Finn Harps’ two-game winning streak in Ballybofey last night.
The result comes as a big blow for Harps after their recent revival which would’ve really ignited with any sort of a result against the Turner’s Cross outfit. Instead, the margin on the teams above them is slightly extended once more, following the unravelling of Friday night’s results.
Aaron McElwee and Paddy McLaughlin both returned to the Harps line-up, having missed out on last week’s game due to suspension, while Ciaran Coll got the nod ahead of Gareth Harkin to start at left-back.
The home side would’ve felt content going in at the break all-square after seeing their opponents pass up a number of golden opportunities, none more so than a penalty awarded on eighteen minutes.
Cork striker Vinny Sullivan powered his way into the box and after being put off balance from Paddy McLaughlin, tumbled into the onrushing Ciaran Gallagher, who picked up the yellow card, strangely, instead of his team-mate.
Graham Cummins then stepped up and hammered the spot-kick off Gallagher’s left-hand post, as Harps were let off the hook.
Moments beforehand and Cork nearly had another penalty after Keith Cowan upended Cummins right on the edge of the area, with the Harps defender walking away scot-free and Gallagher saving the subsequent free-kick from Davin O’Neill.
The visitors, without a defeat from any of their eight away games to date, continued to test their hosts, with Mark Forker perfectly positioned to steer a Stephen Mulcahy header off the line, following a teasing corner from Gearóid Morrissey.
Harps, despite playing some wonderfully composed football in the first half, scarcely tested Mark McNulty, as Kevin McHugh and Blaine Curtis worried the Cork back-four but never frightened them.
The home side’s best chance of an opener came on thirteen minutes when McHugh bust a gut to get to the byline before pulling square for Curtis, who was denied by the backtracking McNulty just as the striker was about to pull the trigger.
The Leesider’s looked like they might finally grab the breakthrough two minutes before the break when Sullivan robbed Aaron O’Hagan before rounding Ciaran Gallagher. And despite been forced wide, Sullivan picked out O’Neill, who somehow managed to blaze wide from six yards out, with the goal at his mercy.
Curtis, industrious and sharp throughout, twice went close in the early stages of the second half, the first a wonderfully improvised flick from a Brolly cross and the second, a fifteen yard effort that McNulty collected, following a beautifully threaded-ball from Aaron McElwee.
The away side, however, nudged ahead just after the hour mark when Shane Duggan tucked home after a nice cutback from Cummins, who managed to shrug off the attentions of the previously impenetrable Keith Cowan. Duggan then bagged his and his side’s second goal of the night after Paddy McLaughlin gifted the visitor’s possession in the middle of the park. The stylish midfielder galloped onto the loose ball and after Cowan failed with an attempted block, Duggan kept his composure to curl home from twenty yards past Gallagher.
Cummins might have made it three for the away side in the dying stages but was hauled down by Cowan on the edge of the area, an incident the Harps defender somehow managed to escape with just a yellow card.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Paddy McLaughlin, Keith Cowan, Aaron O’Hagan, Ciaran Coll; Mark Forker, Aaron McElwee, Tommy Bonnar, Marc Brolly; Blaine Curtis, Kevin McHugh. Subs: Gareth Harkin (Brolly, 52 mins), Gary Merritt (McLaughlin, 78 mins).
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Neal Horgan, Stephen Mulcahy, Kalen Spillane, Danny Murphy; Gearóid Morrissey, Greg O’Halloran, Shane Duggan, Derek O’Brien; Graham Cummins, Vinny Sullivan. Sub: Davin O’Neill (O’Brien, 3 mins).