Galway 1 Cork City 1: It was unlucky 13 for Cork City last night as their 100% start to the season came to an end at the hands of a gritty Galway United in Eamonn Deacy Park.
The home side were fully deserving of their point, even if they were desperately holding on at the end as their efforts from the first hour of the game took its toll.
City had weathered that United storm to take a 59th minute lead, but the home side were back on level terms within 90 seconds, and try as they could, City couldn’t find a second goal to preserve their perfect start to the season.
Both managers made one change to their sides from their most recent games, with Garry Buckley coming into a City side that hammered Finn Harps 5-0 in place of Jimmy Keohane, who dropped to the bench; while for United, Alex Byrne came into midfield after David Cawley was ruled out after picking up an injury in the scoreless draw with Derry City on Monday night.
United may have started the night second from bottom, but they came into the game with a good run in their last 11, and they had conceded more than one goal in just three of their 12 league games, showing they are a difficult team to beat.
A shot count of 7-2 in United’s favour tells its own story, and the home side were only kept scoreless in the opening half through a combination of some wonderful last-ditch defending from Conor McCormack; and top goalkeeping from Mark McNulty.
City’s goalkeeper was called into action as early as the fourth minute, using his feet to keep out a Kevin Devaney shot; while he made a more conventional save on the half-hour mark, diving to his left to push away a Gavan Holohan effort.
Padraic Cunningham also went close for the home side, flashing a header wide with McNulty rooted to the spot in the 26th minutes. Former City player, Stephen Folan, was handed the task of man-marking Sean Maguire, and he kept the marksman in his pocket all night. In fact, the visitors only tested Conor Winn in the United goal twice, the best of which was a 20-yard free-kick from Kevin O’Connor in the 10th minute which the 6’6” goalkeeper clawed away from the top corner.
He also made a routine block from a Karl Sheppard shot in the 43rd minute, but the half belonged to United, and they received a standing ovation from the home fans as the teams left the pitch at half-time.
As good as the first-half was, the game really sparked to life around the hour mark with two goals, two bookings, and some full-blooded tackles.
It was the visitors who broke the deadlock, the excellent McCormack taking advantage of a retreating United defence to shoot from 25 yards, and his effort took a slight deflection to wrongfoot Winn and fly into the net.
The City fans, who had travelled in great numbers, were still celebrating when United deservedly equalised just 90 seconds later. Colm Horgan floated in a corner from the left, and former City man Stephen Folan met it with a glancing header which looped over McNulty.
Tempers were frayed minute later when Steven Beattie was late on Kevin Devaney. Players from both sides got involved in a heated exchange of views, and when things settled down, referee Rob Harvey booked Beattie for the tackle, as well as United’s Cunningham, who had raced 25 yards to get involved in the ‘discussion’.
City went close to restoring their lead in the 74th minute in a real goalmouth scramble. A Karl Sheppard cross was headed off his own crossbar by Gary Shanahan, before the ball went out for a corner.
Stephen Dooley whipped in the resulting set-piece, and Ryan Delaney headed goalwards, but with Winn beaten, Marc Ludden scuffed the ball off the line. The danger wasn’t cleared, as the ball fell for Maguire, but his shot was saved by Winn, and United eventually cleared their lines, and held on for a point.
Winn; Grace, Folan, Horgan; Shanahan, Byrne, Holohan, Ludden; Devaney (Devers 90), Murray; Cunningham.
McNulty; Beattie (Bennett 67), Dunleavy, Delaney, O’Connor; McCormack, Morrissey (inj, Keohane 42); Sheppard, Buckley, Dooley; Maguire.
Rob Harvey (Dublin).
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