St Patrick’s Athletic brought Cork City’s brief recovery to a halt at Richmond Park, as a Billy King goal early in the second half was enough to give the home side a deserved victory in what was not, to be frank, a game which will live long in the memory.
At kick-off, there was a familiar face in and one out for City, with Mark McNulty donning the captain’s armband as he replaced the injured Liam Bossin in goal, while Cian Coleman, himself back from injury, started after regular skipper Gearoid Morrissey failed to recover in time from the knock he picked up in the win over Finn Harps. Two other changes saw Charlie Fleming make his first league start in place of Kyron Stabana and Beineon Whitmarsh-O’Brien come in for the suspended Deshane Dalling.
For the travelling Rebel Army, there was also a familiar face in the St Pat’s ranks as former City man Shane Griffin started for the Inchicore side who, remarkably, were looking to score their first goal on home turf since Stephen O’Donnell’s appointment as manager last September. But then, for their part, City hadn’t scored or won away from home in the league since August. So a footballing classic was never likely to be on the cards in Inchicore.
In the game’s opening exchanges, Dylan McGlade was full of running on the left side for City while, at the other end, Joe Redmond had to put in a well-timed challenge on Martin Rennie when the Pat’s striker surged into the Cork box.
In the 13th minute, Chris Forrester showed his class with a long-range dipping free-kick which McNulty did well to turn over the bar.
Pat’s proceeded to take control of the game at that point, with City reduced to feeding off scraps but, for all their dominance of the ball, the next time the home side came close to threatening McNulty’s goal was from another free-kick, on the half-hour mark, Rennie this time bending his effort just over the angle of crossbar and post.
And that was about that for a flat first half characterised by Pat’s lack of a cutting edge and, forced on the defensive, City’s over-reliance on the long ball in a generally fruitless effort to get themselves up the pitch.
Coming in off the left flank, Billy King had always looked the most likely to fashion a breakthrough for Pat’s and, when it duly came in the 55th minute, he found himself in acres of space behind the Cork defence and with plenty of time to guide his shot past McNulty, after Lee Desmond had put him in with an angled ball over the top.
It was a goal greeted with as much relief as celebration by the Pat’s faithful although City almost immediately threatened to get back on level terms, Brendan Clarke doing well to deny Coleman from close range.
With the game having belatedly come to life, there was now something more like an end to end feel to the action although, with Forrester increasingly influential, it was still Pat’s who were far more purposeful in their attacking approach, Rennie rattling the crossbar with a header in the 67th minute.
Moments later, there was concern being expressed by players on both sides, after Oliver Younger came off worst in a challenge with City sub Reyon Dillon, the Pat’s player requiring lengthy treatment before being stretchered off the pitch.
The delay meant for a full ten minutes of time added on at the end of the game, during which Dillon fluffed an inviting chance for a City equaliser as, unmarked at the far post, he could only head over from a Fleming cross.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: B Clarke, D Clarke, Younger (Lennon 78), McNally, Griffin (Bermingham 96), Forrester, Desmond, McClelland (Doona 85), Ward, King, Rennie.
CORK CITY: McNulty, Fleming, Olowu, Redmond, Hurley, Byrne, Ochieng (Galvin 78), Coleman, O’Connor, McGlade (Murphy 94), O’Brien-Whitmarsh (Dillon 70)
Referee: Rob Hennessy (Limerick)