Cork fall short again as wait for Premier Division title continues
Bohemians 0 Cork City 0
And the wait goes on.
It will all be worth it, of course, if Cork City finally wrap up the 2017 league title on Monday. They require only a point from Derry City’s visit to Turner’s Cross after this unremarkable scoreless draw at Dalymount Park.
Not for the first time, they were three minutes away from a landmark event. Dundalk postponed the party with a last-ditch equaliser at Turner’s Cross last month, and their late winner 80km up the road delayed another Cork celebration.
A smattering of cheers from the Bohemians crowd was the notification that the champagne must again be put on ice.
John Caulfield’s men are six points clear of Dundalk with a game in hand – the defending champions only have two matches left to play – and that’s a situation that hardcore fans might have sold grandparents for at the beginning of the season.
After waiting a dozen years for their last title success, another weekend won’t kill them.
As it happens, their 2005 success came after an epic home match against Derry so there’s a nice symmetry to it all.
There are also Cork fans who’ve argued that they would prefer the final blow to be struck on their own turf, in front of a Turner’s Cross crowd, rather than away from home on a damp and dark night. That was the glass-half-full offering for the trip home.
Players and management are unlikely to share that sentiment, though, as they could do with just getting it out of the way
If for some reason they flounder against Derry, they have matches away to relegation-threatened St Patrick’s Athletic and at home to Bray Wanderers to get the job done.
It shouldn’t come to that. Certainly, if they go on to lift the trophy, there is no danger of any part of this encounter featuring on the montage.
Nevertheless, it did succeed in offering another predictable reminder of how much they are missing Sean Maguire. This was the sort of evening where the now Ireland international would have popped up with a moment to split the protagonists.
The memories of this outing will quickly fade.
Bohemians are in limbo in the sense they are safe from the drop – this result confirmed it mathematically – while too far back to mount a European charge yet they were combative on a sticky surface with centre-half Dan Byrne tasked with a midfield brief next to Fuad Sule and regular striker Izzy Akinade sent to the right wing in an attempt to peg back Cork left full-back Shane Griffin.
Cork were the better side before the interval and their best move was ended controversially with Karl Sheppard felled by Shane Supple inside the box.
Replays conclusively showed it was a penalty but ref Rob Harvey’s first instinct was to wave play on. At least it provided a talking point.
“The referee is human he makes mistakes as well,” said Cork centre-half Alan Bennett afterwards. “I think he made a mistake, he’s young, he’s learning.”
Otherwise, a run into the area by Stephen Dooley that was cut short at the last minute was about as close as either side came on that side of the half-time cuppa. Yes, it was that good.
Thankfully, it improved from the restart. Bohs replaced Byrne with Philip Gannon and twice threatened to go ahead in a 60-second spell where left winger Patrick Kavanagh and makeshift left full Derek Pender were both denied by Mark McNulty. The natives perked up.
And they were off their feet again when Akinade drifted in from the right to round McNulty and shoot goalwards with the covering Griffin blocking the ball off the line.
Cork were on the ropes, with red and black shirts charging forward. Even right full Dylan Hayes managed to test the overworked visiting stopper from distance.
Caulfield had to take evasive action, replacing Kieran Sadlier with a defender, Conor McCarthy, and pushing Jimmy Keohane on from right-back where he was toiling.
That settled things down somewhat with Keohane effective further up the park but word of Dundalk’s struggles at home to Bray left the away side in the curious situation where a point would actually be enough. In fact, a loss would have been enough too.
However, Dundalk’s late contribution changed that. Cork did force a series of corners where they might have nicked it and given the substantial away support a moment to remember. But in injury time, they were grateful for McNulty’s dependability when he kept hold of a shot from Bohs sub Ian Morris.
A concession at that juncture, and the knowledge that a draw on Monday would not be enough, would have really got the nerves jangling.
“We’re a step closer,” said Bennett at full-time. “We’ll look forward to Monday night at the Cross. It will be rocking. This is a tough place to come and get a result so we’ll take that and move on.”
Slowly, if not all that surely.
Bohemians – Supple, Hayes, Cornwall, Casey, Pender; Sule (Morris 89), Byrne (Gannon 45; Akinade, Brennan, Kavanagh; Corcoran
Cork City – McNulty, Keohane, Bennett, Delaney, Griffin; Bolger, Morrissey; Sadlier (McCarthy 65), Buckley, Dooley; Sheppard (Campion 89)
ref – R Harvey (Dublin)