Christy Fagan struck the only goal of the game as St Patrick’s Athletic overcame their 5-0 aggregate defeat to Hannover and smashed Cork City’s 12 game unbeaten run to pieces at Turner’s Cross on Monday night.
While unbeaten since April 20, there have been eight draws in the last 10 games for City with seven of those in the last eight. Not being defeated is a great achievement and all, but a quick glance at the table before kick-off would have pointed more towards a dogfight near the bottom rather than a potential surge towards the top half.
Those feelings were all exasperated further as frustrations continued to boil thanks to Fagan’s fine finish after 68 minutes, curling into the bottom left corner after Darren Meenan found him from the right flank.
The dreaded European hangover looked like setting in during a very poor first half for the Dubliners, but Fagan’s strike was enough to earn Pat’s the spoils on a night where both sides were far from their best going forward.
There was plenty of nice passing and some enterprising bursts forward throughout the evening but all too often, and for both sides, the move broke down before a chance could be created.
Liam Buckley’s decision to stick with only Christy Fagan up front on his own, though it paid off in the end, made the game very drab up until the interval as Pat’s stifled Cork in midfield.
Disappointingly, it took 40 minutes for a decent chance to be created. Ian Bermingham flashed in a supremely dangerous cross from the left end-line and with Christy Fagan pulling a yard away from Dan Murray, the striker flashed his header six inches over the bar.
He should have, at the very least, directed it on target such was the lack of pressure on him but in a game where it was terribly difficult to even get into the opposition area, to miss such a great opportunity was nothing short of criminal.
The second half did start a bit better with Cork striker Davin O’Neill flashing wide, even though the game was robbed of its brightest light in Chris Forrester due to concussion at the interval after he had a ball blasted at his head.
Again, O’Neill’s attempt should have at least hit the target but it was an overdue signal of intent from the home team.
City looked more dangerous as the half wore on, O’Neill’s glancing back-header gathered by Brendan Clarke soon after the hour mark but Fagan’s magical finish tore the home team’s plan to shreds and the Saints held on for a deserved win, moving them to within nine points of the top with a game in hand and still in with a shout of catching runaway leaders Sligo Rovers.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; John Dunleavy, Kevin Murray, Dan Murray, Danny Murphy; Ian Turner (Brian Lenihan 73), Shane Duggan, Gearóid Morrissey, Daryl Horgan; Vinny Sullivan, Davin O’Neill (Stephen Kenny 83).
Subs not used: Paul White, Gavin Kavanagh, Keith Quinn, Kalen Spillane, Andy O’Connell.
Booked: G Morrissey (78), D Murray (81).
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Kenny Browne, Conor Kenna, Ian Bermingham; Anto Flood (Darren Meenan 64), Chris Forrester (Ryan Coombes 46), James Chambers, Greg Bolger, Sean O’Connor; Christy Fagan (Vinny Faherty 89).
Subs not used: Barry Murphy, Aidan Price, Eoin Hyland, Jake Kelly.
Booked: Coombes (46), Browne (54), Bermingham (62).
Referee: Tom Connolly.
Official attendance: 2,159.
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Christy Fagan (St Patrick's Ath).
Alan Smith works as a sub-editor for the Guardian newspaper in London. Originally from Cork, he freelances for several other newspapers and websites. Follow him on twitter @alansmith90.