Six weeks and three league games since the night they could have first put it all to bed with a win away to Shamrock Rovers and a slip by Dundalk and here were Cork City traipsing home again and still looking for the last elusive point needed to claim the title.
Not so much a title run anymore so much as a game of Patience.
All being equal, John Caulfield’s men should do the needful at Turner’s Cross when Derry City come a visiting on Monday but let’s just hope Hurricane Ophelia doesn’t dictate differently or this long walk to the Promised Land will start to take on a distinctly Biblical hue.
“You’re never gonna believe us, you’re never gonna believe us, we’re gonna win the league,” sang the 800 or so travelling fans underneath the old Des Kelly Stand 10 minutes before kick-off. Well, actually lads, some of us are beginning to wonder. Just a tad, like.
We jest. A plague of frogs wouldn’t stop the inevitable at this stage but the optics aren’t great.
City are winless since the long road trip to Finn Park in the third week of August, which delivered a 1-0 victory. Eleven points they have claimed from the last 27. It’s an astonishing drop in productivity for a side that will still end the campaign as champions.
Not so much a triumphant march as a frustrating stumble towards glory.
It was the end of July when a George Poynton penalty produced City’s first defeat of the season, at the 23rd attempt. Little did we know it then but the waves rippling out from that evening would wash away Cork’s hopes of beating the record 85-point margin Bohs themselves had registered in winning the league in 2008.
Sights have lowered plenty since then.
Only one dream will do now as the Leesiders chase a first title since 2005 and much of what we saw last night explained just why John Caulfield’s men have left the engraver poised with his hand over the trophy for the bones of a month and a half.
There was a decent zip to their play at times on a pitch and a night coated with a drizzle, but there is a final product lacking from their efforts ever since Sean Maguire accepted the offer of new employment over at Preston North End.
Though they dominated much of the first half, it ended with little or nothing to show for their efforts in front of Shane Supple’s goal. The best shout was literally that: A call for a peno after the Bohemians goalkeeper made contact with Karl Sheppard just inside his area.
City didn’t deserve the win, or maybe even the title, on a performance like this. Pegged back after the break by a Bohs side fighting for its survival in the top tier, the visitors were dependant on some dogged defending and a handful of stops from Mark McNulty to keep the damage to a draw.
It would have been nice to claim the title in Dublin, and at the home of the side that first called a halt to their seemingly inexorable progress. But it would have been nice to wrap it up at home to Dundalk, too, or at Market’s Field in the rarified atmosphere of a Munster derby.
Maybe not today then, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.