Christy Fagan 56' -
Christy Fagan’s excellent strike on 56 minutes was enough to overcome a spirited Cork challenge at Richmond Park on Friday night and secure European football for Liam Buckley’s men in 2013.
The game started brightly with both teams passing the ball quickly and looking to get their wide men moving down the flanks. Daryl Horgan got an early cross in the home side’s area but Ian Bermingham headed clear, and then Sean O’Connor teed up James Chambers for a shot that drifted disappointingly wide.
Both sides had lined up with three in central midfield but with quarter of an hour gone it was becoming clear that it was the Pats trio who were becoming dominant. Chambers led the way, keeping his side moving with a wide range of effective passes.
The first real opening came in the 16th minute when Pats moved the ball across the edge of the City box only for Christy Fagan to thump a low shot off the inside of McNulty’s right hand post and away to safety.
Pats pushed on from there, exerting almost constant pressure on a City backline that at times looked dangerously ill at ease. Bermingham had a shot blocked away by Colin Healy and Vinny Faherty came close with a fine shot from wide on the right.
It wasn’t until the 35th minute that City showed their hand, Gearoid Morrissey getting on the end of a fine move down the left and forcing Brendan Clarke to tip his 25 yard effort over the bar.
Chambers, for Pats, curled another effort just beyond the post two minutes later but it was the visitors who might have sneaked a lead just before half time when Conor Kenna inexplicably gave the ball away on the edge of his own box. A weak finish from Morrissey spared the Pats defender’s blushes.
City started the second half well, with Daryl Horgan wriggling in to the Pats box seven minutes after the restart only to lift his effort over the bar. Moments later Ger O’Brien should have put the home side ahead when his curled shot from the right somehow slipped past the far post when it seemed destined to find the net.
But the home support didn’t have to wait long for the breakthrough. In the 56th minute City looked to have cleared their lines but a header from Faherty, back over the defensive line, saw Christy Fagan race on to the loose ball and hit a cracking shot low past McNulty and into the far corner of the net.
Having fallen behind Cork mounted a spirited attempt to draw level. Shane Duggan finished off an accomplished move with a snapshot that scuttled narrowly wide on 65 minutes and concerted pressure kept Pats on the back foot, Daryl Horgan having a shot desperately blocked away six minutes later.
City suddenly looked like a different team. Assured and decisive in pursuit of the ball, they were energetic and daring with it. Shane Duggan saw an effort from distance fly too close to Clarke and Davin O’Neill almost took advantage of a ball that popped up from a Gearoid Morrissey strike, but a rattled Pats defence managed to clear.
The final ten minutes were skittish as City maintained the pressure on a Pats side edging nervously closer to the win that would guarantee them European football and provide a successful run in to next weekend’s FAI Cup final.
Four minutes of added time offered a finale they didn’t particularly want, but Liam Buckley’s men saw out the Cork challenge to take the points and send the visitors home with nothing.
St Patrick’s Ath: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Conor Kenna, Kenny Browne, Ian Bermingham; Sean O’Connor (John Russell 77), Chris Forrester, James Chambers, Jake Carroll (Ryan Coombes 89), Vinny Faherty (Jake Kelly 57); Christy Fagan.
Subs not used: Barry Murphy, Aidan Price, Pat Flynn, Anto Flood.
Booked: G O’Brien (45).
Cork City: Mark McNulty; John Dunleavy, Gavin Kavanagh, Kevin Murray, Danny Murphy; Ian Turner (Davin O’Neill 67), Gearoid Morrissey, Colin Healy, Shane Duggan, Daryl Horgan; Vinny Sullivan (Stephen Kenny 71).
Subs not used: Kevin Burns, Neal Horgan, Kalen Spillane, Dan Murray, Danny Morrissey.
Referee: Paul Tuite.
Extratime Man of the Match: Christy Fagan (St Patrick’s Ath).