Such is the depth of disdain at how the last 10 or so days have panned out around Leeside, not even an almost trouble free and, at times, entertaining display on the pitch could dispel fears about what’s going on off it.
Man-of-the-match Denis Behan showed he was willing to step into Dave Mooney’s sizeable boots, similar to the way he did this time last year when Roy O’Donovan headed for Sunderland. His fifth and sixth league goals of the season settled affairs towards the end of a patchy second half after Joe Gamble’s early strike.
There was a charged atmosphere at the ground, the undeniable signalbeing sent out that the reluctant investment of Arkaga was no longer welcome by the disgruntled supporters.
Unfurled banners declared fans’ willingness to be “here today, here forever” while another requested that the London-based group “rot in hell”.
One of the few players to appear on Alan Mathews’ player-in list, Lawrie Dudfield, made his first start in a City shirt, replacing the injured John O’Flynn. Cillian Lordan replacing Darren Murphy on the right hand side of midfield was the only other change from the same side that beat Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup eight days ago, Reading recruit Mooney having missed out on his last game for the club due to suspension.
The opener was a collector’s item. Not only did it have centre back Pat Sullivan providing the telling cross, but it was finished off by midfielder Gamble, a player not known for taking a punt at goal at the best of times. Denis Behan cushioned Sullivan’s cross back to the Togher man who placed his volley into the top right hand corner, sending the packed Shed End behind that goal wild.
It was an early release for the angry supporters but only whetted their appetite for more and a second almost arrived soon after. Dudfield had a header on 26, set up by energetic left back Danny Murphy, while just after the half hour mark, a Behan 25-yarder pounded Alan Gough’s crossbar. Neal Horgan came close with a free a minute later while Dan Murray was a whisker away in first-half injury time after Colin Healy chested down for him to unleash a shot from just outside the area.
The hosts lost a bit of a handle on things after the break as Bray succeeded in breaking up their play a lot more effectively than they had been in the first half. City’s frustration showed, three of their number issued yellow cards between the 53rd and 57th minutes. Dissent did it for Michael Devine and Sullivan while a rash Danny Murphy challenge got him booked in between the other two.
Gough has been belying his advanced years in the Bray goal of late and he pulled off an incredible save in the 66th minute when Dudfield aimed a point blank, downward directed header beneath the 36-year-old shot stopper but he got down quickly to deny the striker.
On a night like this, the last thing the troubled hosts would have wanted would have been to concede a goal against the general run of play and those fears were finally allayed in the 76th minute when a perfect sweeping cross from Kearney found Behan at the back post who had only to keep his composure and direct his header to the top right hand corner from four yards out.
It was a more relaxed Turner’s Cross now and the third was enjoyed as such. Danny Murphy struck a free kick off the Bray wall but the referee adjudged one of the bricks to have handled the defender’s effort in an attempt to stop the rot. He needn’t have bothered, Behan slotted the resultant penalty beneath Gough and after a brief respite reserved for celebration, the home fans got back down to the business of protest singing, continuing until long after the final whistle.
CORK CITY: M Devine; N Horgan, D Murray, P Sullivan, Danny Murphy; C Lordan, J Gamble, C Healy, L Kearney; D Behan, L Dudfield.
Subs: J O’Flynn for Dudfield (82), Darren Murphy for Healy (84), D Ryan for Kearney (90).
BRAY WANDERERS: A Gough; D Pender, D Foran, G Whelan, G Cronin; P Kavanagh, D Robson, C Tresson (capt), M Duggan; A O’Keefe, G Rowe.
Subs: J Kelly for Tresson, G Coughlan for O’Keefe (both 76), A Myler for Rowe (90).
Referee: M Gough (Limerick).