FOR the second league game in succession, Cork City ended up with 10 men and no points, despite a stirring comeback from two-down against St Patrick’s Athletic in Inchicore last night.
In then end, it took a Keith Fahey free in the dying moments to extend the Inchicore’s side lead in the Premier Division to six points.
Pats had the best possible start, shocking Cork with a goal inside the first minute. Gary O’Neill was the scorer with a header from close range but the real quality was in the whipped delivery from Fahey.
Cork were both shaken and stirred, responding with a spell of pressure which produced a couple of corners, although Barry Ryan in the Pats goal remained untroubled until the 24th minutes when he was well-positioned to collect Dave Mooney’s header.
Six minutes later, the Pats ‘keeper had to fully extend himself to deny a fine 20-yard effort from Liam Kearney. While Cork, chasing the game, were dominating possession, their discomfort with set-pieces was exposed again just past the half-hour mark when, from a Dessie Byrne corner, ‘keeper Michael Devine had to show top-class shot-stopping skills to deny Mark Quigley from close-range.
Pat Sullivan came closest to levelling it for Cork, rattling the crossbar from distance while, at the other end, Quigley latched on to a sloppy pass from George O’Callaghan, turned City skipper Dan Murray but could only shoot tamely at Devine.
Then just before the break, O’Callaghan got a superb free-kick on target but Ryan did brilliantly to push it away at foot of the post.
An eventful second half began with O’Neill outfoxing Devine but last man back Cillian Lordan was able to clear off the line under pressure. However, Pats were two-up in the 64th minute when the gifted Fahey cut open the Cork defence, finishing a one-two with Gary Dempsey by slipping the ball past Devine with just enough force to carry it over the line.
The league leaders appeared home and hosed moments later when Cork’s Danny Murphy received a second yellow for a clash on the touchline with substitute Noel Haverty that seemed more like a collision than anything malicious. The full back certainly seemed to think so, giving ref Damian Hancock a bit of face to face time before marching straight down the tunnel.
In the 71st minute, City manager Alan Mathews sent on John O’Flynn for Denis Behan and it took the Cork sub only four minutes to make his mark, heading home at the far post, after Colin Healy had hooked a deep O’Callaghan ball back into the box.
With just four minutes left on the clock, Cork appeared to be back from the dead when John O’Flynn again climbed highest to beat Barry Ryan with a header from Cillian Lordan’s long ball into the box.
The Cork sub seemed certain to have secured the headlines as well as a point for his team but, with just two minutes of normal time remaining, up stepped dead-ball specialist Keith Fahey to win it with a trademark free kick from the edge of the box which Michael Devine could only help into his own top corner — after it took a deflection off the City wall.
A kick in the teeth for battling Cork perhaps but, after an entertaining contest, enough on the night to cement the Saints’ grip on the title race.
CORK CITY: Devine, Horgan, Murray, Lordan, Murphy, Sullivan, O’ Callaghan, Healy, Kearney, Mooney, Behan (O’ Flynn 70)
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Ryan, Lynch (Haverty 29), Paisley, Brennan , Byrne, Byrne, Fahey, Dempsey, Kirby, Quigley (Ryan 89), O’Neill
Referee: Damian Hancock.
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