Byrne bags 182nd league goal to earn draw
Bray defence stars against late surge
JASON BYRNE's 182nd goal in the League of Ireland earned Bray Wanderers a richly deserved point at Turner's Cross on Friday night.
Byrne struck 16 minutes from time to move level on goals with Pat Morley as the second best striker in the league's history but more importantly to strike off Tadhg Purcell's early opener.
Red cards and early goals have been the Seagulls' Achilles heel this season and they were unable to stop the rut at the Cork venue as Purcell neatly finished off Daryl Horgan's pass after just four minutes of play.
The visitors shaded the remainder of the tie and after surviving a few counter attacking scares they got their just desserts when Byrne bagged his third goal from three games.
A nerve-jangling finale saw Cork up the ante in their search for a home win but the Bray defence, lead by the behemoth Pierce Sweeney, easily rebuffed their attacks.
With both Adam Mitchell and Dane Massey ruled out of contention for the trip south due to injury and suspension respectively, Pat Devlin was forced to shuffle his pack and in came Sweeney and Kevin Knight, with John Mulroy also getting the nod ahead of Graham Kelly in the final of three changes.
Wanderers came to the Munster venue with a game plan that saw Mulroy operating in a slightly advanced midfield role with them clearly hoping to swamp the Cork midfield which included former Republic of Ireland international Colin Healy.
The best made plans of mice and men often go awry though and Purcell threw a spanner in the works for Devlin with his first goal for Cork City. Daryl Horgan created it as he timed his pass to perfection to help Purcell beat the Bray offside trap and the striker casually dinked over the outrushing Darren Quigley to give his side the lead.
John Mulroy and Jason Byrne both tried their luck from distance after Purcell's strike but on 19 minutes Adam Hanlon should have levelled the tie with his first goal for the club.
Mulroy released Knight down the left and he skipped away from his marker before cutting the ball back for Hanlon who was unmarked in the centre but the winger's effort was blocked by City captain Danny Murphy who launched himself into the ball's path and blocked it with his chest.
The resultant corner was cleared as far as Hanlon and he fired in another shot that was once again deflected wide.
Shane Duggan was the beneficiary of some lovely build up play by Horgan in the 23rd minute when the former was teed up by the latter but he fired wide.
Daryl Horgan was causing more problems for the away defence minutes later and his cross eventually found Jamie Murphy but the midfielder's forceful volley was turned behind by Quigley.
The overwhelming majority of the 2,888 in attendance nearly wanted Duggan's head on a plate shortly before the hour mark when he was found guilty of dithering in possession on the halfway line. The largely impressive Sean Houston stepped in to rob Duggan of possession before charging forward with the ball in toe. He eventually slipped it through for Byrne and the 34 year old's thunderous drive was clumsily put behind for a corner by Cork 'keeper Mark Mcnulty.
Wanderers continued to seek an equalizer but when a promising attack broke down in the 66th minute they nearly became the victims of a Cork counter attack. Kieran 'Marty' Waters was the man who lost the ball and in the blink of an eye the hosts were up the other end and Gearoid Morrisey was feeding Davin O'neill on the edge of the box but Quigley was equal to the substitute's low drive and a corner was the end result.
But justice was done in the end when the Seagulls snatched a deserved goal 16 minutes from time. Kevin Knight pumped the ball forward and Waters looked to scorch past Dan Murray only to be body checked by the former Hoop. The ball rolled through for Mulroy though and with Murray now out of position, Mulroy was able to send Byrne clear for a one-on-one with Mcnutly and you know the rest.
Top Form: Pierce Sweeney (Bray Wanderers): Hard to believe he is only 17.