Pat’s will point to the sending off of Mark Quigley with nine minutes remaining as a significant turning point but, as Cork looked to press home their advantage, it still took a truly spectacular effort from the veteran Healy to send the Shed End into raptures and leave the reigning champions with no way back.
In the absence of transfer target Brian Lenihan, skipper John Dunleavy played at right-back with City boss John Caulfield opting to hand Michael McSweeney his league debut at centre-half. For Pat’s, manager Liam Buckley reshuffled his troops to compensate for the loss of the injured Ken Oman – Killian Brennan his surprise replacement at centre-half — and the suspended Chris Forrester, with recent Ireland international Keith Fahey returning from his own ban for the reigning champions.
The home side began brightly in the warm evening sunshine, Mark O’Sullivan’s shot on the turn from the edge of the box whistling just the wrong side of a post after five minutes before Killian Brennan had to time his intervention just right to deny John O’ Flynn, joining the attack from wide right, a close range opportunity.
Clarke was then called into action to make a fine save to keep out an O’Sullivan header, as Cork continued to apply the bulk of the pressure.
Uncertainty between Ross Gaynor and McSweeney gifted Christy Fagan Pat’s first goal chance after 20 minutes but the striker was unable to make the most of the unforced error.
However, Pat’s probably could have taken the lead shortly after when Killian Brennan embarked on a great, surging run from the back, but, having exchanged a one-two with Ian Birmingham, he couldn’t keep his rising effort on target.
With Fahey and Mark Quigley prompting intelligently from midfield, Pat’s began to get their passing game going and, with Cork forced into a long ball approach, the visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of possession for the remainder of an increasingly listless first half. Yet, the Inchicore side lacked a cutting edge and the best chances continued to fall to the home side, the unlikely figure of Dan Murray almost giving City the lead just before the break when his left-footed volley required a terrific save from Brendan Clarke to prevent the ball flying into the top corner.
Danny Morrissey replaced Liam Kearney early in the second half and, though the sub was required to bolster midfield when the opposition had the ball, there were signs that the added support up front for O’ Sullivan might pay dividends for Cork.
Just past the hour mark, Pat’s had their best chance yet to break the deadlock but McNulty did well to block Fahey’s shot and McSweeney did enough to prevent the Pat’s man capitalising on the rebound.
At the other end, O’Sullivan then got his angles all wrong when offered a free header in the box and, as the shadows lengthened, space opened up, the pace of the game increased again and errors began to creep in, there were chances at either end — but still that crucial goal continued to elude both sides.
Cork looked to have gained a big advantage with ten minutes remaining when Mark Quigley saw red for a second yellow card offence but, with just two minutes left on the clock, it still required something extra-special to win the game after a Billy Dennehy corner was kept alive in the Pat’s box by McSweeney’s looping far post header – Healy’s perfect connection with the dropping ball, right under the noses of an ecstatic Shed End, which will surely go down as one of the most unforgettable goals ever scored at the Cross.
CORK CITY: McNulty, McSweeney, Murray, Dunleavy, Gaynor, Healy, O’ Flynn (O’Shea 71), Kearney (D. Morrissey 54) G. Morrissey, B. Dennehy (O’ Leary), O’Sullivan
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Clarke, McCormack, Browne, Brennan, Birmingham, Bolger, Byrne, Fahey, Quigley, Greene (O’ Brien 85), Fagan
Referee: Tomas Connolly.