The title challengers, second in the table, were held by the gutsy hosts – who have only lost twice at home all season – and have to beat Galway United at Turner’s Cross tomorrow night if they are to eat into the seven-point gap.
In a game initially drenched by a deluge, Cork were off target with their shooting, regularly thwarted by Sligo’s goalkeeping understudy, Ciaran Nugent, and, with their best chance, Gary Buckley’s 47th free-kick rocket, denied by the woodwork.
An offside flag ruled out substitute Dave Mulcachy’s finish from Mark O’Sullivan’s flick after 82 minutes.
Despite needing maximum points to keep the pressure on holders Dundalk, Cork boss John Caulfield remained positive. He said: “We knew there would be a reaction from Sligo [after their defeat to Bray]. In the first-half we didn’t do enough but in the second-half we created a few chances. Looking at footage of the last chance [the disallowed goal] it looked like it was onside so I’m a bit annoyed about that.” “There are still seven games to go. Every game is going to be tough. People probably think you just turn up and win games, it is not as easy at that.
“We’ve been up against it because it is as if people want Dundalk to win the league and we’ve been playing catch-up all season; it is very frustrating.”
Caulfield added: “The most important thing for us is that we’ve a game on Tuesday night (against Galway) to close the gap and we have to do that.”
Against a Sligo side minus three first-team regulars, including captain Craig Roddan and custodian Micheál Schlingermann, who is ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury, Cork struggled to find a breakthrough. The on-form Sean Maguire, a former Sligo player, was unable to add to his impressive goal tally – his best opportunity came in the 21st minute but the striker’s low, angled shot was put out for a corner by Ciaran Nugent, Sligo’s American net-minder.
Sligo have become Cork’s bogey team of sorts this season – there have been two goalless draws in the north-west and the Bit O’Red, now back up to fifth in the standings, won 2-1 in Cork in early August. Indeed, Sligo appeared keen to redeem themselves for their 4-0 away hammering against Bray the weekend before.
With John Russell dynamic in midfield and French-born forward Achille Campion working hard up front, the home side carved chances of their own – Kieran Sadlier twice tested Mark McNulty with fizzing shots and Gavin Peers saw his header cleared off the line by Stephen Dooley following a seventh-minute corner.
Sligo manager Dave Robertson, meanwhile, was delighted to have taken something from one of the top flight’s leading sides. This hard-earned point settled the turbulence caused by successive losses to Dundalk and Bray Wanderers. “The most important thing for us was the performance levels of the players. I thought we were excellent and resilient throughout,” he said.
Nugent; Adebayo-Rowling, Leahy, Peers, Boylan; McCann (Kearns 83), Russell, Keohane, Sadlier (Cretaro 64); Martin, Campion.
McNulty; McSweeney (Mulcachy 58), Bennett, Browne, O’Connor; Bolger, Morrissey (O’Sullivan 74); Sheppard (Turner 84), Buckley, Dooley; Maguire.