For Bohemians, who will justly wonder how they didn’t get anything out of another fine performance, defeat meant they had no chance of overtaking St Pats for fourth place.
There was a big turnout of home supporters for the last game of the season at Dalymount Park, reward for a run of four draws and three wins which had put Bohs in with an outside chance of European qualification. And there was an especially warm ovation for their new goal-scoring hero, the towering Ismahil Akinade, who had claimed 10 goals in 17 games since joining the side in June.
Early on it was Cork who were having to do almost all of the defending in the first half-hour, with Dan Murray finding Akinade a real handful although, much to the wrath of the Dalymount faithful, the veteran centre-half was never for one moment shy about attempting to get to grips with his man.
In what little Cork saw of the ball, Liam Miller was by far their brightest operator, so it was a blow for John Caulfield – and a worry ahead of the cup final – when the former Irish international was forced out of the game with a calf strain, Darren Dennehy coming in to partner Murray while captain John Dunleavy moved forward into midfield.
After a Stephen Beattie free kick had almost caught out Dean Delaney down at his near post, Cork finally put together their first spell of sustained pressure late in the first half, the Bohs defence surviving one almighty goalmouth scramble with nothing worse to show for it than the concession of a corner, before Mark O’Sullivan threatened with a turn and shot which was always rising over the bar.
And almost right on the stroke of half-time, in a rare enough moment of real quality from the visitors, John Dunleavy put Karl Sheppard in on goal with a sublime through ball but, coming in at an angle from the left, Sheppard shot into the side netting.
The second half began with Bohs firmly back on top, however, Cork mainly reduced to playing on the break or through seeking out the runs of Sheppard with long balls up the flank.
The home side, passing crisply and using the full width of the pitch to good effect, looked the side most likely to break the deadlock, and, just past the hour mark, the visitors had Mark McNulty to thanks for keeping the score at nil-nil as he brilliantly tipped an audacious Keith Buckley chip over the bar.
City still carried a threat, however and, with the game becoming more stretched, the otherwise underworked Dean Delaney reacted well to keep out a John Dunleavy strike with fifteen minutes to go, before Keith Buckley cleared a Mark O’ Sullivan header, from substitute Colin Healy’s corner, off the line.
And, with Bohs not quite knowing what had hit them, it was a Healy shot which helped give Cork the lead in the 84th minute, as referee Neil Doyle judged that Anto Murphy had blocked the effort with his hand. The home players and supporters protested long and loud but, unconcerned, a cool Billy Dennehy duly gave Delany no chance from the spot, to secure a win against the head on the night for Cork and – well deserved for their efforts over the whole course of the campaign - the runners up spot at season’s end.
Delany, Hayes, Mulcahy (Prendergast 12), Murphy, Lopes, Wearen, Hayes (Byrne 80), Buckley, Kavanagh, Kelly (Evans 87)Murphy, Akindade
McNulty, McSweeney, Dunleavy, Murray, Gaynor, O’Connor, Miller (D Dennehy 33), Sheppard (Healy 73), Beattie, B Dennehy (Ogbene 89), O’Sullivan
Neil Doyle (Bray)