Bohemians 1 Cork City 1: An away point at Dalymount Park is not to be sniffed at this season but, with rampant Dundalk extending their lead at the top of the table, Cork City will have reason to rue their inability to hold onto an early lead against Bohemians.
Mark O’Sullivan had put the visitors ahead with a fine goal after only two minutes but, with just six minutes of normal time left to play, rising star Adam Evans bettered that effort with a sweetly struck volley to ensure the points were shared.
It means Cork remain in third but are now seven points behind the Lilywhites while Bohs are fifth, but only on goal difference, behind St Pats.
After the game, John Caulfield confirmed that City have lost Alan Bennett for “a few weeks” with a hamstring problem and, overall, the disappointed manager felt his side’s performance left a lot to be desired.
“We were a bit flat and we played below ourselves despite getting a great start,” he said. “We just didn’t penetrate enough, moved the ball slowly and didn’t get a proper grip on the game. We needed to go for the second goal - and we did have Garry Buckley’s volley - but I think overall we just didn’t do enough. Bohs deserved a draw.
“For us, we’ve got to get our confidence back and get back to winning ways. It’s important for us to stay in there. It’s up to us, Pats, Rovers and everyone to challenge Dundalk but at the moment they seem untouchable. But there’s a long, long way to go.”
This was Cork’s first outing without John Dunleavy since the skipper sustained a serious knee injury against Dundalk, the captain’s armband passing to the experienced Bennett until his injury - with Garry Buckley coming into the starting line-up and, upfront, Mark O’ Sullivan getting the nod ahead of John O’ Flynn.
Bohs came into the game with a spring in their step after a 2-1 win on the road against Derry which featured a goal of year contender from Kealon Dillon and took Keith Long’s young surprise packages up to fourth fifth the start of play.
The game was only two minutes old when, with their very first attack, Cork took a stunning lead. Liam Miller drove forward from deep inside his own half, released O’ Sullivan on the left and, after cutting inside onto his right foot, the striker unleashed a thunderbolt from just inside the box to the roof of the Dean Delany’s net.
The onus was now clearly on Bohs to take the game to their opponents but while the home crowd appreciated their team’s attempts to play expansive football, for all their dominance of possession the only serious save Cork ‘keeper Mark McNulty had to make for the remainder of the first half was when he was called upon to tip over a Lorcan Fitzgerald free on the half-hour.
For their part, the visitors were content to protect their lead, their attacking play mainly consisting of long balls looking for the head of O’ Sullivan who was never shy about letting the Bohs defence know they were in a physical battle.
Indeed, the only blip for Cork in the first period was when the they lost the impressive Bennett to injury coming up to the break, although they did have the luxury of experienced cover on the bench, with the veteran Dan Murray able to come on and take over the skipper’s armband. At the restart Bohs too were forced into a change, Dave Mulcahy coming on for Anto Murphy who was unable to resume after receiving treatment at the end of the first half.
One goal is, of course, the narrowest of leads, which meant that City were hardly comfortable with their advantage even if Bohs continued to struggle to test McNulty as the game progressed.
Indeed, it was Cork who almost doubled their advantage in spectacular style on 60 minutes, Billy Dennehy’s cross from the left getting an acrobatic flick on from Karl Sheppard which, in turn, set up Garry Buckley for a full-bloodied volley which screamed just over the bar. Then, as a scrappy, congested game threatened to open up, Mark Griffin drove his volley into the ground and up into the grateful hands of McNulty as Bohs at last had a clear sight of the target.
Cork then suffered another injury blow with the loss of Billy Dennehy, replaced by Kieran Djilali, in the 67th minute. And with twenty minutes to go, Bohs manager Keith Long sent in legendary striker Jason Byrne forDillon, as the Gypsies looked for a way to unlock the Cork defence.
Marc Griffin was prevented from doing just that in the 82nd minute only by a terrific McNulty save but just two minutes later the highly rated Adam Evans, on as a sub, met a headed clearance from a Derek Prender cross with the sweetest of left-foot volleys to put Bohs back on level terms.
After that, both sides pressed in vain for a winner but the share of the points at Dalymount meant it was Dundalk who had most to smile about at the end of the Bank Holiday action.
Delaney; Pender, Prendergast, Murphy (Mulcahy 45), Fitzgerald; Dillon (Byrne 70), Buckley (Evans 55), Creevy, Lopes, Kavanagh Griffin
McNulty, Kavanagh, Bennett (Murray 41), D. Dennehy, Gaynor, Sheppard (Morrissey 84), Miller, Healy, B. Dennehy (Djilali 67), Buckley, O’Sullivan
Referee Padriagh Sutton (Clare)
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