Cork City needed to better Dundalk’s result in Tallaght to prolong the title race for at least another week, but the 13-point gap remains intact, while Drogheda’s point keeps them in the relegation zone.
The Leesiders made a disastrous start against the second-from-bottom Boynesiders. There were only eight minutes gone when Dan Murray left a simple back-pass slightly short and as his keeper Mark McNulty dithered Keith Treacy got a toe in first to tap the ball to the empty net.
Cork City hit back almost immediately. Ross Gaynor saw a fierce drive tipped over the bar by Micheal Schlingermann, and when the resulting corner was cleared back to Gavan Holohan, the former Drogheda man dinked the ball back in for Karl Sheppard who glanced the ball to the net .
After that early drama came a lull, with neither keeper seriously extended in the remaining half-hour of the half. That said, Drogheda did have to defend no fewer than eight corners, but that they did as Schlingermann who made a number of clean catches.
The visitors created a couple of half-chances from distance during this spell, but Garry Buckley sliced his shot badly wide and Holohan had two efforts blocked by the Drogheda defence. The closest to a lead goal for Cork came in the 40th minute when a Holohan cross took a slight deflection off Drogheda’s Robert Bayly into the path of Darren Dennehy who hooked the ball narrowly wide.
For their part, the Boynesiders were limited to occasional counter-attacks, but lone striker Ger Pender received little support and Mark Kinsella’s side badly missed the influence of the suspended Sean Thornton.
The contest was more even at the start of the second half and McNulty had to dive to his right to keep out a Treacy free kick, before Schlingermann saved a Sheppard effort at the other end.
A miscommunication between Joe Gorman and his goalkeeper almost led to a fortuitous lead for Cork as the defender’s back-pass struck the outside of the post before being claimed by Schlingermann. McNulty was then stretched twice in quick succession as he tipped over efforts from Michael Daly and Bayly.
Cork boss John Caulfield threw on Billy Dennehy and John O’Flynn in search of a winner and Garry Buckley nearly put them ahead in the 76th minute but headed wide from a Holohan corner kick.
It was Drogheda who almost grabbed a priceless winner through Dundalk native Tiarnan Mulvenna who headed wide from an 85th-minute free.
Schlingermann; Buckley, Byrne, O’Reilly, Gorman; Whelan, Bayly, Daly, Hughes, Treacy; Pender.
Duffy for Pender (46), Mulvenna for Whelan (76), McKenna for Treacy (84).
McNulty; McSweeney, Murray, D Dennehy, Gaynor; Beattie, Miller, O’Connor, Holohan, Buckley; Sheppard.
O’Flynn for Sheppard (68), B Dennehy for Gaynor (69), Dunleavy for Holohan (88).
Ray Matthews (Westmeath)