St Patrick’s Athletic and Cork City played out a scoreless draw at Richmond Park on Friday night, in a game that only really came to life in the final third.
With St Pats missing several key players, Tommy Dunne might have seen this as a prime opportunity for his Cork City side to take something from a side as yet unbeaten in this year's Premier Division. But while the game initially offered much, with both sides committed to playing the ball on the ground, neither developed enough fluidity to truly dominate the opening period.
Too many passes went astray and, when chances were created, the finishing was of insufficient quality to bring this gently simmering game to the boil.
Darren Meenan was the first to catch sight of goal when he received a pinpoint 50 yard delivery from Kenny Browne, cut inside City full back Colin Healy, and fired a shot into the visitor’s side-netting. Cork striker Vinny Sullivan responded on 12 minutes having been played into space by Davin O’Neill, but his weak effort was typical of the general malaise in front of goal that would follow.
Pats midfielder Chris Forrester tested City keeper Mark McNulty midway through the half with Darren Meenan shooting straight at the City stopper shortly afterwards. Tommy Dunne spoke for everyone on 22 minutes, screaming ‘Finish!’ as Tadhg Purcell wasted a golden chance, shooting tamely at Brendan Clarke having been played in by Daryl Horgan.
It soon became clear that if a goal was to come it would likely be struck from distance, something Forrester came close to on 23 minutes, curling a free kick inches wide of McNulty’s goal. Jake Kelly, too, fired narrowly wide a few minutes later, and on 35 minutes Forrester, getting closer, stung McNulty’s palms from 20 yards.
Pats started the second half much the brighter, putting enough pressure on their visitor’s to induce some sense of defensive panic. Danny Murphy was lured into a rash challenge on Kelly on the edge of the visitor’s box, though the free came to nothing, and Forrester met Kelly’s corner at the back post only for the back of Purcell’s head to deny what would otherwise have been the opening goal.
But that early promise soon faded. Passes wandered off target and City were allowed to settle as the home side’s creative spark dulled. Sullivan almost made Liam Buckley’s men pay just after the hour mark, shooting powerfully wide after Purcell’s semi-intentional step over played him into clear space just outside the box.
With 25 minutes left the game suddenly burst into life. Pat Flynn and Vinny Sullivan were booked as temperatures rose over a foul on City’s Daryl Horgan, and minutes later Purcell spun a deflected shot over Clarke and off the underside of the Pats’ crossbar.
Within a minute substitute Sean O’Connor’s effort was superbly saved by McNulty at the other end. It seemed we might have a game on our hands and McNulty came to the rescue again on 76 minutes saving from Forrester as the Pats player closed in on goal.
Two minutes later and City should have stolen the points. Browne felled Purcell inside the box, as clear a penalty as you will ever see, only for the striker to see his spot kick saved by Brendan Clarke.
The last minutes belonged to Pats who laid siege to the City goal. Substitute Jake Carroll fresh-aired a back post opportunity and John Russell was denied a penalty when referee Paul McLaughlin judged Gearoid Morrissey’s foul to be marginally outside the Cork City box.
Three minutes of added time were played entirely in the City half but there would be no breakthrough for St Pats. Still unbeaten, but with six draws from eleven league games, the jury must remain out on whether Liam Buckley’s side can mount a genuine title challenge. City, meanwhile, will consider that a valuable point.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Kenny Browne, Conor Kenna, Ian Bermingham; Jake Kelly (Sean O’Connor, 63), John Russell, Pat Flynn, Chris Forrester, Darren Meenan (Jake Carroll, 83); Christy Fagan (Ian Daly, 72).
Subs Not Used: Lee Brandon, Aidan Price, Ryan Coombes, Eoin Hyland.
Bookings: Flynn (66), Carroll (87).
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Colin Healy, John Dunleavy, Kalen Spillane, Danny Murphy; Daryl Horgan, Gearoid Morrissey, Shane Duggan, Davin O’Neill; Vinny Sullivan, Tadhg Purcell.
Subs Not Used: Kevin Burns, Ian Turner, Dan Murray, Garry Buckley, Cathal Lordan, Stephen Kenny, Eoghan Murphy.
Bookings: McNulty (9), Healy (57), Sullivan (67), D Horgan (79), Morrissey (86).
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.
Extratime Man of the Match: Mark McNulty.