Sligo Rovers 2 - 1 Cork City (aet)Tue, Jun 16 2009
While the game was always riveting, it was not until the second period of extra time that the action really came to boiling point, as Man of the Match Cretaro climbed highest at the back post to expertly nod in Sean Doherty's right wing cross to put the home side in front after they had trailed to Guntar Silagailis' opener. Seconds before Cretaro's strike, Brush had tipped Silagailis' shot onto the bar and over for a corner in the first meaningful attack of extra-time.
Looking to hold on for a place in the fourth round, the natives then had to bear the drama of a City spot kick in the 111th minute when Brush hauled down Alan O'Connor and Padraig Sutton didn't hesitate in awarding the penalty.
Danny Murphy stepped up and struck low to Brush's left but the agile 'keeper made up for his foul with an excellent save to deny the left back. With Sligo holding on in the dying seconds and the crowd in full voice, Colin Healy managed to get on the end of a cross from the right and headed against the Sligo bar from six yards. Sligo hearts retracted slowly from mouths and Paul Cook's side joyfully celebrated the final whistle when it eventually came.
Both sides made changes from the first game on Friday, with Paul Cook having to replace the injured duo of Gavin Peers and Shaun Holmes with Conor O'Grady and Danny Keohane. Paul Doolin made three changes to his line up as Shane Duggan, Timmy Kiely, and Guntars Silagailis came into the side.
Sligo bristled with energy and vitality from the first whistle, but it was the visitors who were quickly into the lead, when Alan Keane conceded a corner kick in the fifth minute. Colin Healy played the ball to the corner of the area to left back Danny Murphy, who knocked the ball into the area first time. The delivery seemed to somehow go through a crowd of bodies and snuck past Brush at the near post, but Latvian striker Silagailis wheeled away in celebration. What part of his anatomy diverted the ball to the net is as yet unknown until video replays can be analysed.
Stung by the sucker punch, Rovers took a while to get their attractive brand of football into gear, as the nearest they came to troubling Dan Connor was Owen Morrison's speculative free from distance that flashed left and wide. Cork, facing into the breeze, were content to sit back and try and catch the home side on the break, otherwise launching high balls into the channels for lone striker Denis Behan to chase.
Raf Cretaro got the home crowd involved again on 17 minutes with a nice bit of skill and cross from the left corner but Dan Murray, not for the first or last time, headed clear. Cork were niggling in with tackles in midfield, disrupting the creative efforts of O'Grady and Richie Ryan. Alan Keane rifled a shot wide from 30 yards on the half hour mark, before Timmy Kiely rattled the post three minutes later for Cork after incisive work down the right by Denis Behan and Silagailis.
Kiely was again at the end of a cross from the right, this time from Pat Sullivan, but headed well over Brush's crossbar. City again broke up a Sligo thrust on 39 minutes and were suddenly galloping across halfway with a four-on-two situation developing with Colin Healy at the helm. Healy played in Shane Duggan to his left as he approached the penalty area and the midfielder looked set to score, even though his first effort from six yards trickled through Brush's legs. The ball fell for Duggan again but he took a fraction too long to find the empty net and Danny Ventre lunged in to execute a perfectly timed challenge.
Sligo took full advantage of this let-off/intervention by grabbing the equaliser four minutes before the break. Owen Morrison slid a lovely pass in for the effervescent Cretaro, who drilled in his eighth goal of the season low and hard past Connor, whose first meaningful action of the game was to pick the ball out of the net. Paul Cook's side were buoyed by the goal and the manager's insistence on getting the ball back into play as quickly as possible led to numerous confrontations between himself and the fourth official, Paul Deering. Cook was agitated by Cork's slowing down of the game at every opportunity and the Scouser could hardly believe when only a minute was added on at the end of the first half.
Romauld Boco, who flies out to Benin tomorrow morning for a World Cup qualifier, was on the outskirts of the game in the first half but got involved three minutes after the restart, when he got down the right flank and sent a pin-point cross for Cretaro at the back stick, but the Tubercurry man couldn't knock it past Connor from a difficult angle, clipping the outside of the post with a volley.
Both sides got stuck into each other for the remainder of the half, without ever seriously threatening each others' goal until Danny Murphy let rip from the edge of the boxw with 18 minutes to go, again receiving a short corner from Healy, and forcing Brush into a spectacular diving save to his left to keep the ball out of the top corner.
Sligo won a free on the edge of the area with ten minutes to go and Morrison was only a whisker away from finding the top right corner. Colin Healy tried his luck from outside the box with five minutes left but Brush got down easily to save. Cretaro then inspired a frantic last five minutes, heading over a quickly taken free kick before whipping in a cross that was taken off the head of Richie Ryan at the last second by Cillian Lordan.
The sides could not be separated, though, and into an additional half hour we went, and a last fifteen wrapped in drama which had both sets of fans enthralled by the agony and ecstasy of an exciting Cup tie finale.
Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush; Alan Keane, Danny Ventre, Steve Feeney (Jason Noctor, 53), Daniel Keohane; Brian Cash (Sean Doherty, 53), Conor O'Grady, Richie Ryan, Owen Morrison; Romauld Boco, Raf Cretaro.
Subs not used: Christopher Kelly, Ciaran Kelly.
Cork City: Dan Connor; Danny Murphy, Dan Murray, Greg O'Halloran, Pat Sullivan; Tim Kiely (Craig Duggan, 109), Colin Healy, Shane Duggan (Stephen O'Donnell, 65), Cillian Lordan, Guntars Silagailis; Denis Behan (Alan O'Connor, 65).
Subs not used: Mark McNulty, Neal Horgan, Faz Kudozovic, Kevin Long.
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Raf Cretaro.
Attendance: 1600 est.
Referee: Padraig Sutton.
is extratime's Chief Editor, who is based in County Galway and has been following the League of Ireland on and off since he was roughly six which, unfortunately for him, was way back mid-80s. His first memory of the drama of domestic football was Vinny Arkins, then of Shamrock Rovers, on the receiving end of banter about his long, blond hairdo which was in need of a trim, while his favourite player of all time is Derry City's Liam Coyle.