Saints Alive as Cork fail to keep title chance realistic
Two Cork City fans discussed the price of a pint of Beamish outside McDowells on Emmett Road at 6:45 last evening. Three points however should have been rising to the top of their discussion. Maybe the requirement of Longford to turn over Dundalk to keep their league chances alive deflected their focus a little. As it turned out Dundalk picked up 3 handy points to put them 7 points clear with 3 to play and Pats put 3 goals past an all but spent title challenge by Cork. Nobody was surprised with John Caulfield’s submission of “it’s gone now” at the post match press conference.
Pats showed their intent with a 20 yard shot from Lee Desmond after 2 mins that was just off target. Kevin O’Connor replied with a similar effort for Cork shortly after which needed a fine save from the impressive Brendan Clarke. Cork found it hard to settle but nearly capitalised on a chance after 10 mins after a short kick out by Clarke was picked up by Sean Maguire. Clarke managed to get something on Maguire’s shot which was enough to see it go wide of the post to his left. Some nice link up play from Dooley and O’Connor down the left flank started to pay off for Cork and Maguire came close again but was ruled offside. Against the run of play Christy Fagan put Pats ahead on 16 mins when Michael Barker sent in a square pass from the right after a mix up in midfield. Fagan allowed the ball to roll past him and then calmly slotted home a left foot shot which gave Mark McNulty no chance. Apart from a goal line clearance from Jamie McGrath, Pats did not have much defensive work to do as they contained the Cork offensive. Cork held possession well but the efforts of Holohan, Sheppard and Buckley were not enough to force an equaliser. Pats seemed happy enough to control from the back and were just edging the midfield battle. A deserved equaliser did come when Cork won a corner just after a dubious throw in was awarded on the left. Dooley’s in swinger was met by the head of Alan Bennett to send the sides in level on the stroke of half time.
Cork seemed to be invigorated as they started the second half with their tails up. Steven Beattie came close and Kenny Browne had a golden opportunity after 4 mins that should have been converted. Pats weathered the early second half storm and were beginning to gain momentum. Sam Verdon replaced the injured Michael Barker and was involved straight away with chances that fell to Conan Byrne and Ian Bermingham. With the introduction of Chiedozie Ogbene on 73 mins Cork felt they could pose a realistic threat. Their best chance of going ahead fell to Sean Maguire but Clarke was equal to his effort. Pats began to control the game and when a 25-yard volley from Bermingham needed a good save from McNulty it was only a matter of time. Pats second goal came from sub Verdon who slotted home perfectly to McNulty’s right after a sweet pass from the left by Byrne. The tempo of the game started to increase as Cork desperately tried to level the match. Tempers flared a little when Bermingham & Beattie had to be separated after some heavy tackling in midfield. Pats were now playing much deeper into their own half which limited Cork’s chances. A couple of shots sent over the crossbar from close range were not enough to worry the Pats defence. The nearest Cork came to levelling was when the ball was sent crashing against the Pats woodwork, the last touch seemed to come from a Pats player. This was a fitting tribute on the night to the late Jimmy ‘Timber’ Cummins, albeit at the wrong end for the recently passed Pats player. 5 mins of time added seemed like a bit of a lifeline for Cork, however it only allowed Pats to add to their tally. Jamie McGrath was taken down in the area by Cork captain Greg Bolger and Ref Ben Connolly pointed to the spot. Conan Byrne made no mistake and slotted home to give Pats a well-deserved 3–1 victory.
Liam Buckley should be doing a lot better with this Pats side if John Caulfield’s comments about Pats having more resources than Cork are true. Despite Caulfield saying that he had “no excuses” he attributed the lack of atmosphere and a tough schedule on their lack lustre performance tonight. League leaders Dundalk on the other hand would seem to have no problem with a packed schedule. Buckley was delighted with his team’s performance and stated the obvious when he said “if teams want to win here, they’re going to have to beat us”. To be fair to Buckley he was eluding to the fact that beating Pats in Richmond Park is something that is not going to be made easy for any title contenders. Both managers expressed their disappointment with the lack of atmosphere and the low attendance and went on to say that Red Monday amongst other things could be to blame.
Interesting Stat: 3 is a magic number.
3 was the magic number tonight as Pats and Dundalk both scored 3 in their respective fixtures. Cork now look destined for 3 runners up finishes in a row and Dundalk need just 3 more points to secure 3 titles in a row with 3 matches remaining in a 33 match season. Ireland international Alan Bennett wearing number 3 gave Cork some hope but Pats put the final nail in the coffin 3 minutes into added time. Cork will now be putting all their efforts into winning their 3rd FAI Cup. Finally, 3 was the amount of times that Cork manager John Caulfield said the title race was over.