Although it stretched their unbeaten run in the league to nine games, Sunday night’s draw with Bohemians will have felt like a defeat for Cork City as they were denied consecutive victories and clean sheets by a 91st minute penalty from Bohemians substitute Keith Ward.
Only moments from climbing up to sixth position in the table, City’s Kevin Murray, who was only on the field two minutes as a substitute for Kevin Murray, conceded a spot-kick when he collided with Derek Pender in the area and referee Derek Tomney had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, Ward sticking his effort into the top left corner.
At the end of a game that saw the home team create all the best chances, it will have felt like a cruel blow but there was no denying a spirited and youthful Bohs side deserved something from this game due to the perseverant manner they went about their business.
They will now turn their attentions to a Europa League qualifying round second leg tie with Thor Akureyri on Thursday evening, a game that in truth is far more important than yesterday’s fare.
Such is the imbalance in prize money in the domestic game that a win in Iceland would earn the Dubliners a return on par with winning the league. It was little surprise then that manager Aaron Callaghan made eight changes from their scoreless draw in the first leg last Thursday – Andy McNulty, Kevin Feely and Dwayne Wilson the only ones to keep their place.
This was a frighteningly inexperienced Bohemians side, with an average age of just 22 in the starting XI, and their lack of defensive nous was evident early on despite sticking with an increasingly popular 4-2-3-1 formation.
That the opening goal midway through the first half arrived through Cork star Daryl Horgan was no surprise as the tricky winger caused havoc when given far too much space on the left flank throughout the game. Indeed the strike came from the archetypal counter-attack as Bohs attacker Wilson had sent a cross in from the right which Colin Healy headed back to home keeper Mark McNulty. The ball was quickly worked to Gearóid Morrissey and he efficiently found Horgan and the wide man raced down the left, cut in before sending a neat strike low to the net at the near post.
Although there were half chances at either end, Horgan went closest to a second prior to the interval with a swinging effort from the edge of the area that Andy McNulty did well to keep a hold of.
Bohs worked hard and enjoyed a larger share of the ball in the early stages of the second half but Cork continued to create the better chances, Davin O’Neill hitting the roof of the net with a lob that had Andy McNulty beaten, while Vinny Sullivan and Horgan also went close to extending the deficit.
Gearóid Morrissey and Danny Murphy both scuffed wide as City attempted to turn the screw but they were dealt a blow when Morrissey and fellow midfielder John Dunleavy limped off injured in the space of two minutes.
Horgan tried his luck again following another lightning quick break only to scoop just wide with 76 played but City sat too far back as the game wore on and in the end it proved costly as Ward grabbed a late, late point for his side.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Colin Healy, Kalen Spillane (Kevin Murray 88), Gavin Kavanagh, Danny Murphy; Gearóid Morrissey (Ian Turner 71), John Dunleavy (Neal Horgan 73), Shane Duggan, Daryl Horgan; Davin O’Neill, Vinny Sullivan.
Subs not used: Kevin Burns, Graham McCarthy, Dan Murray, Andy O’Connell.
Bookings: Dunleavy (40), K Murray (90+1), McNulty (90+2).
Bohemians: Andy McNulty; Derek Pender, Roberto Lopes, Kevin Feely, Michael Barker; Stephen Traynor, Daniel Joyce (Keith Ward 79); Dwayne Wilson (Andy Mulligan 60), Adam Martin, Karl Moore (John O’Connor 68); David Scully.
Subs not used: Keith Buckley, Daniel Mahon, Philip McCabe, Keith Murray.
Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin).
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Daryl Horgan (Cork City).