After going down to Munster rivals Waterford 2-1 last week in an eventful encounter, the champions needed a win last night with title rivals Dundalk looking in ominous form.
And they were made work hard for the win against a Pat’s side who will count themselves unlucky not to have taken a point from the game. The home side still look to have more in the tank however, and were not at their best again last night but moved back up to second after Waterford went down at The Brandywell.
City boss John Caulfield had to plan without the suspended Garry Buckley and Steven Beattie, who were hit with three and four game bans respectively for their part in the much publicised melee last week.
Caulfield himself is banned for one match after last week’s incident but the City boss was allowed take his place in the dugout last night before his ban comes into play for the home match with Sligo Rovers on Tuesday, and he made two changes to last week’s side.
Out went Aaron Barry and Buckley and they were replaced by Colm Horgan and Karl Sheppard, which saw Caulfield go with the inexperienced centre back partnership of Sean McLoughlin and Conor McCarthy.
Liam Buckley’s Saints are much improved from last season and Buckley gave a few of his fringe players a run-out during the week for their EA Sports Cup clash with Dundalk, where they were unfortunate to bow out on penalties.
But having trashed Bray Wanderers 5-0 at home last week, Buckley went the same line-up, which meant the Christy Fagan, who has a good record against Cork City had to again make do with a place on the bench.
The visitors started on the front foot with the City defence looking nervous early on and Simon Madden put in a dangerous cross from the byline in the third minute, which Horgan had to clear off Mark McNulty with Jake Keegan lurking.
Minutes later Dean Clarke picked out Conan Byrne at the back post but Byrne’s header was blocked as Pat’s threatened an early breakthrough.
This seemed to spark the home side into action and Kieran Sadlier’s dangerous cross was hooked over his own crossbar by Jamie Lennon in the 14th minute with City players queueing up to finish.
Cummins, who was harshly sent off in the corresponding fixture on the first night of the season, thought he had given his side the lead from the resultant corner kick, but his looping header from McNamee’s corner came back off the post.
Minutes later, Buckley was fuming at his side’s defending after making the exact same mistake again, when McNamee swung over an identical corner kick and Cummins was free again in the same place to direct another looping header narrowly off target with Sadlier unable to finish at the back post.
Pat’s look a lot more durable this season and Owen Garvan, who stupidly got himself sent off at half-time in this fixture last season, looked composed along with the highly rated Lennon in midfield as Buckley’s side matched City in a competitive first half.
Lee Desmond and Kevin Toner looked wary of the aerial threat of Cummins throughout the first half and they were outdone by the striker four minutes after the break.
There looked to be no danger when Conor McCormack picked the ball up 40 yards from goal but when he clipped a neat ball into the box, Cummins rose above the static Desmond to plant a superb header over the outstretched Barry Murphy.
Buckley introduced Fagan as he looked for an equaliser but Gearóid Morrissey was inches away from number two when his long range effort flew inches wide of Murphy’s right hand post and shortly afterwards Murphy had to make a smart save low down to keep out Cummins’ volley.
In between, Ryan Brennan had a great chance for an equaliser but he couldn’t finish when left unmarked at the back post.
Substitute Jimmy Keohane should have made sure of the points five minutes from time when the other substitute Josh O’Hanlon put the ball on a plate for him but Murphy saved well with his legs.
McNulty, Horgan, McCarthy, McLoughlin, Griffin, Sheppard, McCormack, Morrissey, McNamee, Sadlier (Keohane 81), Cummins (O’Hanlon 84).
Murphy, Madden, Desmond, Toner, Bermingham, Byrne, Lennon, Garvan (Kelly 80), Brennan (Markey 77), Clarke, Keegan (Fagan 68).
Robert Hennessy (Limerick)