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Waterford FC 2-1 Cork City (AET)

Waterford FC returned to the top flight of Irish football on Friday night, coming from behind to defeat Cork City FC in this year’s Promotion / Relegation Play-Off in Tallaght Stadium.

Roland Idowu was first to threaten on goal, with his strike from the right stinging the hands of Tiernan Brooks after just three minutes.

Ryan Burke was next to cause panic in the Cork box, with his first shot deflected out for a corner before his drilled-effort from the resulting corner rifled narrowly wide.
The Blues continued to cause danger in the City box, with Rowan McDonald’s long-range effort saved by Brooks once more.

The first real chance of the game fell to Ronan Coughlan after 12 minutes, who was fed the ball down the right by Baggley, before cutting in and firing inches over the City crossbar.

On the twenty-minute mark, Connor Parsons was fed through by Coughlan before seeing his low-effort saved by the feet of Brooks. Romeo Akachukwu’s pull-back from the right almost fell to the feet of Coughlan minutes later, only to see it cleared just before it fell to the feet of the First-Division top-scorer.

Cork created their first chance on the half-hour mark, when Worman’s cross found Bargary with the goal at his mercy from six-yards, but the winger was unable to make a connection as it ran beyond him. Moments later an almost-replica version of Bargary’s previous chance occurred, as again he had the goal all to himself inside the six-yard box, only to fail to connect once more.

Akachukwu forced Brooks into a save at his near post after Idowu’s cross on the 45th minute mark, before Ryan Burke finished off the first-half chances with an effort that flew just wide of the City goal.

The Blues started off the second-off like the first, with Idowu firing wide of Brook’s crossbar after finding himself one-on-one with the City keeper just two minutes into the second-half.

Sam Sargeant pulled off two excellent saves moments later – one each from Murphy & Hakkinen – as he kept the game scoreless, while at the other end Akachukwu once more forced Brooks into a fantastic save down to his left from a corner early on in the half.

Despite all the Blues pressure, it was Richie Holland’s Cork side who opened the scoring after 54 minutes, when Cian Coleman headed home Barry Coffey’s set piece.

Keith Long’s side never panicked and with 21 minutes remaining, the Blues got the goal they deserved. Darragh Power’s cross was only headed out as far as Connor Parsons and he beautifully curled into the top-right corner from 25-yards to get the Blues back in the game.

O’Brien Whitmarsh missed a golden opportunity to regain the lead for City, when he miss-hit Cian Murphy’s cross at the back-post as the ball evaded him.
Blues substitute Cameron Cresswell headed wide from Parsons cross on the right with eight minutes remaining as the Blues looked to find that crucial second-goal.

The Blues twice narrowly headed wide from corners in stoppage time, as neither side could find that winner in regular-time, so another 30-minutes of action was needed to decide this tie.

The Blues pressure finally paid off in the 101st minute as Keith Long’s side took the lead through Ronan Coughlan. It was that man himself who was fouled in the penalty area, before he stepped up and cooly slotted home to give the Blues the lead.

Substitute Tunde Owolabi came inches away from levelling the game 50 seconds into the second-half of extra time, only to see his effort from 20-yards rebound off the crossbar.

The Blues defended heroically in the final minutes to secure a place in the 2024 League of Ireland Premier Division.

Waterford FC: Sargeant; Power, Phillips ©, Osede, Burke; McDonald (111’ Cantwell), Baggley (113’ O’Keeffe), Idowu (69’ Cresswell), Akachukwu (69’ McMenamy), Parsons (96’ Griffin); Coughlan.

Cork City: Brooks; Honohan, Hakkinen, Coleman ©, Drinan (19’ O’Donovan) (105’ Kabia); Bolger, Kravchuk (25’ O’Brien Whitmarsh), Bargary (90’ Owolabi), Coffey (90’ Walker), Worman; Keating (46’ Murphy).

Attendance: 4,032.

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