The ace Cork striker saw his effort parried by Steve Williams, who moved to his left to nudge away the kick after Jim Crawford pushed George O’Callaghan to earn his second yellow card and a subsequent red in the process.
Cork had the satisfaction of being the first club to hold Shelbourne scoreless in the league.
Alas, it was their only source of comfort, although they preserved their unbeaten home record in a game which did little to enhance the Eircom League’s image, despite the dramatic conclusion.
Shels had to play the closing 14 minutes with 10 players, following the dismissal of substitute Jim Gannon, whose reckless challenge on O’Callaghan resulted in an automatic red card.
For showing dissent at the decision, another sub George McCarthy was shown a yellow card.
Cork manager Pat Dolan rejigged his troops in a bid to arrest the side’s recent slump which saw them capture just one point from a possible nine.
Full-backs Neal Horgan and Robert Hedderman were dropped with regular outside left Billy Woods reverting to left full and Alan Carey preferred on the right. In midfield, Denis Behan, a 20-year-old from Abbeyfeale, was handed a first start wide on the right. The first half was a forgettable affair, borne out by the inactivity of both keepers, who hardly had to make a save worthy of the name. Cork netminder Michael Devine was a virtual spectator throughout the 45 minutes, his biggest problem being the number of back-passes he had to deal with on the wet surface. At the other end, Steve Williams was summoned for duty just twice. The first, after 21 minutes, he dropped smartly to his right to smother a weak O’Callaghan shot and later the same player tried an ambitious volley from the corner of the area only to see it flash too high. In stoppage time, Williams had a major escape, however.
O’Callaghan floated a tantalisingly free-kick from the middle of the pitch to the penalty spot, where defender Alan Bennett reached the ball first only to head over the top, not realising the keeper had come, but stopped. As chances went, it was the best of the opening period.
Shels, attacking the Shed end, experienced severe difficulty in coping with the wet pitch. Several times their passes carried too much weight and skidded off the surface for a series of goal kicks. Wesley Hoolihan looked their biggest threat along the right, but, he, too, struggled to make an
Referee Jimmy O’Neill had to prise Greg O’Halloran and Richie Baker apart after a tackle from behind by the Cork captain incensed the Shelbourne outside right, who appeared to raise his hands in retaliation in the first incident of note after 12 minutes. Sensibly he refrained from reaching into his pocket for a card.
Shels boss Pat Fenlon was forced to make an early substitution after central defender Kevin Doherty limped out of the action six minutes later, replaced by Gannon, who slotted in alongside Tony McCarthy in the heart of the back four until his rash tackle near the end.
The first yellow card was shown to Jim Crawford for a hefty challenge on O’Halloran in the centre circle just after the half-hour mark, a decision which had Fenlon remonstrating with the fourth official.
Fans craved for a major improvement on the resumption, probably believing the second-half couldn’t be as unproductive from two of the title challengers.
The third quarter was marginally better, with Cork forcing the play and putting the Shels defence under some pressure. And yet it was the visitors who should have claimed the opening goal, when Jason Byrne failed to meet a superb in-swinging corner from the right by left-back David Crowley after 57 minutes.
That scare prompted an exciting response from the home side. O’Callaghan took a quick corner to Woods, whose first time shot was tipped over Williams, who then needed two attempts to hold a well-struck Kevin Doyle effort.
The same player was involved again after 66 minutes. For once he found space and time along the flank to set up O’Callaghan inside the area, but his shot flew over the crossbar.
O’Flynn’s penalty miss frustrated Cork’s attempts at closing the gap on the pacesetters. He also missed from the spot in the last home league game against Waterford United.
CORK CITY: Devine; Carey, Bennett, Murray, Woods; Behan, O’Halloran, O’Grady, Doyle; O’Flynn, O’Callaghan. Sub: CP O’Brien for Behan 88 mins.
SHELBOURNE: Williams; Heary, McCarthy, Doherty, Crowley; Baker, Morgan, Crawford, Hoolihan; Byrne, Geoghegan. Subs: Gannon for Doherty 18 mins, G McCarthy for Baker 67 mins; Cahill for Geoghegan 75 mins
Referee: J O’Neill (Waterford)