Cliftonville draw some comfort despite Cork progression
Cliftonville 2 Cork City 2 (Cork City win 6-2 on aggregate)
Four goals was exactly what Cliftonville fans hoped to see at Solitude on Monday night but, unfortunately for them, Cork City claimed half of that total to wrap up a 6-2 aggregate success in an entertaining north Belfast encounter.
Trailing 4-0 from the first leg, the Reds fell further behind when Daryl Horgan thundered home a wonderful early strike and, though Liam Boyce levelled matters before half-time, Danny Furlong restored Cork's lead on the night, with Stephen Garrett's last-gasp leveller all but academic.
After fielding a virtual reserve line-up for last week's defeat – which came little more than 48 hours after a bruising Irish Cup encounter with Donegal Celtic – Reds boss Tommy Breslin made a grand total of nine changes for this return meeting on home turf, having not had a fixture to contend with over the weekend just past.
The postponement of Saturday's scheduled top-of-the-table encounter with Crusaders meant the majority of Breslin's charges had not kicked a ball in competitive anger for approaching a week-and-a-half, with only Liam Boyce and James Knowles retaining their places from that loss at Turner's Cross.
Boyce and then Garrett again threatened before Cliftonville's slim hopes of forcing their way back into the tie were dealt a terminal blow when Daryl Horgan curled home a delightful 16th minute strike to leave the Solitude side needing six without replay.
Murphy then blocked a Diarmuid O'Carroll volley before Boyce bundled his way through a hesitant Cork backline to claim his 27th of the season – and reduce the home target to five.
What wafer-thin hope they had of shooting that deficit down disappeared eight minutes after the re-start, however, when the lively Daryl Horgan sprung the home offside trap to set Danny Furlong up for the simplest of finishes.
The Reds plundered a deserved leveller on the night when Garrett's pace sent him scampering through on goal and he made no mistake with a cool finish.
Cork's night ended on a sour note when, amid confusion following the award of a free-kick to the visitors, Kalen Spillane was shown a straight red card after appearing to fling an elbow at home defender Marc Smyth.
CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, R Scannell, Johnston, McMullan, Garrett, O'Carroll, Seydak, Smyth, Gormley, Knowles, Boyce. Subs: Brown, Donaghy, Caldwell (for O'Carroll, 65 mins), Donnelly (for Johnston, 65 mins), Lynch, Cosgrove (for Boyce, 75 mins), McVeigh.
CORK: McNulty, Turner, Murphy, Murray, G Morrissey, Duggan, Kavanagh, Furlong, Spillane, N Horgan, D Horgan. Subs: Behan (for Kavanagh, 74 mins), Rundle (for D Horgan, 81 mins), D Morrissey (for Furlong, 62 mins), Kenny, Burns, Buckley, Abbott.
Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus).