After a hectic week which saw them earn a draw against Sligo Rovers last Sunday before two friendlies on consecutive nights against Watford and Manchester United, City showed two changes from their last league game — defensive duo Kevin and Dan Murray coming in for Gavin Kavanagh and Kalen Spillane.
And even though they earned a coveted clean sheet it was an evening that was terribly frustrating as they picked up their seventh draw from the last nine games and a ninth in total this season.
Shels, on the other hand, were looking to recover from their last-gasp concession to Drogheda United last week and also sought revenge following Cork’s recent exploits against them — the Leesiders denying the Reds a First Division title with a 94th-minute goal in the last game of last season and earning three points when the teams met in Tolka Park earlier this year thanks to an 83rd-minute strike from Vinny Sullivan.
It was the away team that had the first clear-cut chance on 13 as Philly Hughes headed narrowly wide at the back post after Conan Byrne’s cross from the right was worked to the striker.
Cork’s initial opportunity arrived on 21 minutes when Danny Murphy’s ball to Daryl Horgan ended with the ever-impressive winger crossing to Ian Turner at the back post, but he was only able to direct his header over the bar.
Turner came close again six minutes later after a nice through ball from Davin O’Neill, while the former Cobh attacker had a go himself shortly after the half-hour mark, hitting the side-netting from an awkward position.
The home team were really turning up the pressure gauge as Horgan hit the side-netting and O’Neill struck wide either side of a half-attempt from Shels’ Philly Gorman which curled over the bar after a neat dummy from Barry Clancy but it surprisingly remained scoreless at the interval.
Cork keeper Mark McNulty had a relatively quiet first half but he needed to be at his most attentive at the beginning of the second half when touching a Lorcan Fitzgerald free-kick from 25 yards over the bar. Yet Cork wasted another glorious chance at breaking the deadlock when Daryl Horgan played in Shane Duggan and the midfielder struck wide from eight yards under little pressure.
Most of the crowd cheered when the net rattled, thinking it had gone in, but those cheers soon turned to groans when they realised that the strike was wide of the mark. O’Neill and Danny Murphy had efforts blocked down as City continued to dominate but there was still, worryingly for the home side, no sign of a goal.
Shels grew in confidence from the hour mark onwards, Stephen Hurley shooting inches wide after latching onto a slack ball out of defence from McNulty to the feet of the unsuspecting John Dunleavy in the 68th minute.
Hurley then headed just over from a Byrne cross four minutes after but Cork were awarded another wonderful opportunity when new boy Keigan Parker, on as a sub for Vinny Sullivan, struck over after a hesitant move inside the box.
Kevin Dawson flashed one over for Shels entering the final five minutes but there was to be a further moment of drama as Parker received a red for what referee Padraig Sutton perceived to be an elbow on Brian Shortall and Cork held on in the final few minutes of a game that they should have put to bed by half-time, defending for a point.
CORK CITY: McNulty; Healy, D Murray, K Murray, Murphy; Turner (Kenny 91), Duggan, Dunleavy, Horgan; O’Neill (O’Connell 92), Sullivan (Parker 70).
SHELBOURNE: Bennion; Fitzgerald, Shortall, Boyle, S Byrne; C Byrne, Hurley, Dawson, Clancy, Gorman, Hughes (Kavanagh 65).
Referee: P Sutton (Clare).