Brennan strike leaves Rebels reeling

SO, no fairytale ending to a tumultuous week for Cork City, as champions Bohemians maintained their lead at the top of the Premier Division with a deserved one-nil win.

Mind, it was hardly business as usual at Dalymount Park as this top three game struggled to live up to its billing, only really coming to life in the last half hour after Killian Brennan had given the home side the lead.

A couple of the bigger names from the familiar cast of characters were missing with Joe Gamble for City and Glen Crowe for Bohs only making it as far as the bench at the start. That meant that former City striker Neale Fenn, playing off Jason Byrne in the champions’ attack, came up against his old team, though there was little else about the dismal fare in the first half to evoke other memories of better games between these two teams.

After a sloppy opening spell, during which both sides struggled to make a pass stick let alone find a rhythm, it took a touch of class from Joseph Ndo to provide the game’s first clear sight of goal. Thirteen minutes had elapsed when the veteran, tucking in from his right-side berth, dispossessed Billy Dennehy in the middle of the park. Then came the skilful bit, as he spun a ball over the top with the outside of his boot, putting the galloping Jason Byrne in behind the Cork defence. But, from a narrow angle, the striker couldn’t keep his powerful shot down, the ball comfortably clearing the angle of Dan Connor’s crossbar and post.

If there was any consolation for the attendance at the break, it was that the second half could hardly be any less eventful. The ineffectual Guntars Silagailis was withdrawn by Paul Doolin, with Davin O’Neill introduced on the wing and Tim Kiely pushed up front, but it was Bohs who continued to see more of the ball. And just one minute short of the hour mark, Killian Brennan made the all important breakthrough when he got the decisive contact on an inswinging Paul Keegan free kick to deflect the ball beyond Connor and inside the far post.

One-nil to the champions and, at long last, it was game on. Substitute O’Neill was now proving a lively threat down the right for Cork but, with Bohs still dominant, Paul Doolin made his last tactical throw of the dice on 72 minutes. On came Joe Gamble and Shane Duggan – for O’ Donnell and Kiely respectively — as City went 4-3-3 in an all-out bid to a retrieve the game. And, almost immediately, the visitors came as close as they had all game to getting on the scoresheet, Cillian Lordan firing off a low drive from 25 yards which had Brian Murphy at full stretch as it whizzed just past the outside of his post.

Now, with Gamble driving on his team from midfield, it was suddenly Cork who were in the ascendant, and the midfielder himself came close to getting an equaliser when he found himself unmarked at the far post but, as the ball came to him in midair, could only volley Billy Dennehy’s cross over the top.

It was a spirited rally by City — and all the more admirable on the part of the players in the light of the turmoil off the pitch — but in the end it was not enough to compensate for the earlier doldrums as Bohs held out for the all important three points.

BOHEMIANS: Murphy, Rossiter, Shelley, Oman, Powell, Ndo, Keegan, Deegan, Brennan, Fenn (Madden 80), Byrne.

CORK CITY: Connor, Horgan, O’Halloran, Murray, Murphy, Kiely (Duggan 72), O’ Donnell (Gamble 72), Lordan, Dennehy, Silagailis (O’Neill 45), Kuduzovic.

Referee: D Tomney.

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