Belfast Telegraph

David Healy will be able to draw comfort from Linfield's brave effort

Cork City 1 Linfield 1 (Cork win 2-1 on aggregate)

By Graham Luney

Linfield put up a brave fight but their Europa League adventure ended in the first qualifying round at Turner's Cross last night.

Mark Stafford's equaliser on the night set up a tense finish for Cork City but the first-leg 1-0 loss at Windsor Park returned to haunt the Blues.

Linfield chief David Healy said: "I am very disappointed that we have gone out.

"We put a lot of effort into the game tonight and into the last week over both ties.

"I don't like making excuses but we are still short of fitness so all credit to the players for putting in such a huge effort.

"We had a real go at it in the second half and nearly got caught on the break a few times."

When Sean Maguire opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 48th minute, it put the home side 2-0 ahead on aggregate and seemingly cruising to a second qualifying round clash with Sweden's BK Hacken.

The Blues, though, ensured that it wouldn't be a procession as, with their first effort on target, they got a goal back when defender Stafford met the delivery of former City man Ross Gaynor.

Had Healy's side managed to find another, they would have advanced on away goals but City saw the job through.

Goalkeeper Roy Carroll denied Maguire, sub Danny Morrissey and then Gearoid Morrissey to keep the tie alive.

At the death, City broke through Maguire, who found Danny Morrissey and his pass gave another sub, Mark O'Sullivan, a chance, but once again Carroll saved.

As early as the 10th minute, Stephen Dooley created an opening for Steven Beattie but Carroll was out quickly to spread himself and save and then Dooley's follow-up effort was stopped by Jamie Mulgrew.

At the other end, the Blues found a solid City defence difficult to breach, despite the best efforts of former City ace Ross Gaynor and captain Andrew Waterworth.

Gaynor felt that he might have had a penalty but Polish referee Bartosz Frankowski adjudged him to have dived. Three minutes into the second-half, though, the man in the middle had no hesitation in pointing to the spot after Maguire was pushed by Matthew Clarke.

After Carroll received a yellow card for dissent, he got his hand to Maguire's kick but couldn't keep it out and the Cork contingent in the crowd of 3,521 sensed a relatively easy passage to the next round.

The celebrations were muted just as soon as they had begun, however. Linfield's danger from set-pieces had been well flagged and Stafford showed why as he got his head to Gaynor's free-kick to make for an interesting last half-hour.

The Blues went searching for a killer goal but the hosts held firm. Healy will be disappointed with the outcome but also take heart from his side's fighting spirit.

CORK CITY: McNulty, McSweeney (O'Sullivan 56), Bennett, Browne, O'Connor, G Morrissey, Buckley (Healy 65), Beattie, Holohan (D Morrissey 56), Dooley, Maguire.

LINFIELD: Carroll, Clarke (McLellan 89), Stafford, Haughey, Quinn, Millar (Burns 78), Lowry, Mulgrew, Gaynor, Smith, Waterworth.

Referee: B Frankowski (Poland)

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