Brennan spot on as Saints take control
ST PATRICK'S ATH 2 CORK CITY 1
IF St Patrick's Athletic go on and win the title this season then the 93rd-minute of last night's win will be highlighted as a pivotal moment as Killian Brennan's penalty injected new life into the league leaders.
Reduced to 10 men with 36 minutes remaining, Cork City's goal survived attack after attack with goalkeeper Mark McNulty making eight superb saves until he was finally beaten from the spot. It was cruel on the netminder.
A draw would have provided a fillip to the Saints' rivals and fuelled criticism of Liam Buckley's team's ability to put teams away, but then momentum shifted in the final minute of injury-time as Ciaran Kilduff hauled Brennan down and he emphatically thumped home the penalty causing pandemonium in the Richmond Park stands and on the pitch.
For so long it looked like they would be left frustrated, despite dominating from early on despite Shane Duggan testing Saints' stopper Brendan Clarke from the edge of the box after 10 minutes. All the action thereafter happened at the Shed End where McNulty tipped Conan Byrne's cross around the post, before denying Anto Flood.
Next up was Brennan but he was snuffed out at close range after John Russell found him with a perfect cross, before Chris Forrester rose highest to meet Byrne's in-swinger only for McNulty to prove equal to the task yet again.
Having dominated, the Saints went in frustrated at the break but they were relieved in the early stages of the second-half when Garry Buckley's shot was too close to Clarke. It proved a fleeting visit into enemy territory for City as the hosts' midfield again took control and McNulty was called into action again to deny Forrester from a narrow angle.
Tempers flared minutes later as Neal Horgan dispossessed Forrester in the box with the Dubliner claiming he'd been fouled. Dan Murray broke forward but behind him Anto Flood and Kalen Spillane went head-to-head and the Cork defender appeared to butt his opponent. Sutton was following play and missed it, but his assistant Ralph Pieper spotted it and the referee produced a red card.
He then pulled out his yellow to book the protesting McNulty and Flood for his part, as Spillane exchanged words with fans on his way off and Brennan fizzed the resulting free over the bar.
Then the unthinkable happened as City went and scored, on-loan striker Ciaran Kilduff racing on to Murray's through ball and beating Clarke from an acute angle. Inchicore was stunned into silence, but that stunned feeling lasted two minutes as Flood twisted and turned on the edge of the box before finding the top corner to level.
Pat's went in search of a leading goal and Byrne almost put them in front instantly with a pile-driver that McNulty sharply turned over, and minutes later Aidan Price headed a corner over.
Cork's goal was leading a charmed life thanks to their goalkeeper who was in resolute form and showing a wide range of skills denying Forrester from close range and somehow tipping Flood's header on to the bar.
They seemed to run out of steam and ideas thereafter as Cork began to look comfortable until the cruellest of slips in the final moments allowed Brennan his moment of glory that breathed new life into Inchicore dreams of the title.
ST PATRICK'S ATH – Clarke; O'Brien, Browne, Price, Bermingham; Byrne, Russell (Kelly 72), Bolger, Brennan, Forrester (Maher 90); Flood (Fagan 80).
CORK CITY – McNulty; N Horgan, D Murray, Spillane, Murphy; Duggan, Morrissey, Buckley; Kavanagh (Lenihan 65), Kilduff, Horgan.
Ref – P Sutton (Clare)