The Foyleside outfit looked to be strolling to victory against an out-of-sorts home side thanks to Rory Patterson’s first-half double. But, when Stewart Greacen got sent off on the hour mark for a second bookable offence, the tide changed as Tommy Dunne’s side came roaring back to earn a point.
City boss Dunne made two changes from the side that drew 1-1 against Shamrock Rovers last time out, where Ian Turner came in for the suspended John Dunleavy and Danny Murphy started in place of Tadhg Purcell, which meant a more central role for Daryl Horgan.
Derry lost 1-0 at home to Shelbourne before the mid-season break and manager Declan Devine made three changes from that side. In came Greacen, David McDaid and Ryan McBride for Eddie McCallion and the suspended duo of Barry Molloy and Shane McEleney.
They hit the front in the 10th minute when Stephen McLaughlin played in the superb Patterson inside the box and the striker showed great composure to slot the ball inside Mark McNulty’s right-hand post.
Turner had a great opportunity to equalise five minutes later when he found himself one-on-one with keeper Gerard Doherty, following a bad error by Dermot McCaffrey, but the Derry No 1 got down to save Turner’s weak effort.
Six minutes later, The Candystripes were two-up. Ruaidhri Higgins played the ball to Owen Morrison, who in turn gave the ball to Patterson, who beat Gavin Kavanagh very easily before shooting home from a tight angle.
The home side should have scored within a minute when Turner ran from his own half before playing in Vinny Sullivan, whose shot was well stopped by Doherty — the ball bounced up to the waiting Davin O’Neill, but the normally prolific Cobh man’s first touch deserted him as the ball trickled wide with an empty net gaping.
With the home side 2-0 down, Dunne switched to the familiar 4-4-2 formation, with O’Neill partnering Sullivan up top and Horgan reverting to his normal left-side of midfield role.
It was pulsating stuff and Patterson came close to his hat-trick before the break but McNulty was alive to push his snap-shot around the post.
Dunne introduced Tadhg Purcell for the ineffective O’Neill nine minutes into the second half and it was Purcell who made an impact within six minutes when he was barged over by Greacen on the halfway line and the big Derry centre-back received his marching orders.
The home side pushed on in search of an opening against the 10 men but were nearly caught out 20 minutes from time when David McDaid found himself through on goal after a long kick from Doherty but McNulty saved well.
Doherty then twice came to his side’s rescue in quick succession when he saved first from Purcell and then from Turner’s follow-up effort before Shane Duggan flashed a shot narrowly wide with Doherty beaten.
City pulled a goal back nine minutes from time when Sullivan finished well from a Purcell knock-down and, five minutes later, Shane Duggan stroked home the equaliser from 12 yards after Sullivan found the midfielder in the box.
Colin Healy came close to a winner with the last kick of the game but Derry keeper Doherty tipped his free-kick over the bar.
CORK CITY: McNulty, Healy, Kavanagh (Kenny 71), Spillane, Murphy; Turner, Morrissey (N Horgan 81), Duggan, O’Neill (Purcell 54), D Horgan; Sullivan.
DERRY CITY: Doherty; Madden, Greacen, McBride, McCaffrey; McDaid, Higgins, McEleney, Morrison (McCallion 62), McLaughlin; Patterson.
Referee: D McKeon (Dublin).