Fagan steals Pat's a point on Leeside
Cork City 1 St Pat's Athletic 1
THIS result was about more than gaining a point for Cork City. They had a mission to build respect and the warm reception at the final whistle suggested they had been successful.
Even though they gave away an interval lead, the manner in which they dug in against the league champions after the dismissal of captain John Dunleavy heartened the home faithful. In short, this was a solid night's work.
Ahead of his first match as manager, John Caulfield had called on the Cork public to respond and deliver an atmosphere similar to his playing days.
He got his wish. Crowd congestion forced a 10-minute kick-off delay as 5,322 fans filled up the available vantage points, with the only abundance of free seats in the away end where travel problems reduced numbers.
Turner's Cross is a special ground on nights like this, occasions which allow the mind to dream about what could be possible if this scene was recreated every week.
A credible performance against St Patrick's Athletic was necessary to gather momentum behind the Caulfield regime with the turnout also a testament to the visitors' reputation.
Yet the popular ex-striker had warned his youthful group against standing off and admiring their talent.
He did not wish to be defensive, but striking absentees forced the Roscommon native to set out with winter recruit Anthony Elding as a lone ranger. But he urged his troops to be combative, and they concentrated on hassling a Saints midfield that was weakened by the loss of Killian Brennan before kickoff.
Keith Fahey was given attention befitting his profile by Gearoid Morrissey and an over-zealous challenge from the Leesider forced one of four Cork yellow cards before the break. Gradually, they began to unsettle the title favourites, who created the best early chance when Chris Forrester stabbed a Conan Byrne centre narrowly wide.
City were on top as the break closed in, however, with Colin Healy threatening from distance and Elding prevented from applying the final touch to a fine team move when Ken Oman nipped in to intercept a Liam Kearney dragback.
Cleverness from Elding led to the opening goal though, as he got his body into the right position to draw a foul from Oman at the edge of the area. Billy Dennehy's free was touched behind for a corner, and Healy's subsequent delivery was headed goalwards by Dunleavy and nodded over the line by Garry Buckley after he responded quickest to Oman's block.
That sent the Dubliners down the tunnel with plenty of thinking to do and they emerged smartly, duly restoring parity before the hour mark. Ex-Sligo man Lee Lynch, a late inclusion on account of Brennan's woe, began to find gaps between midfield and attack and his invention allowed Christy Fagan to glance the ball past Mark McNulty.
Buoyed by their breakthrough, the Inchicore men went in search of another and Lynch skied a clever centre from Fagan. They were finding more room in Cork territory and that task was helped when, inevitably, the referee Padraigh Sutton showed a second yellow to Dunleavy for a clumsy challenge.
Oman became the first red shirt to go into the notebook with six minutes to go and when Kenny Browne joined him, it was the eighth booking of the evening.
Cork regrouped after the loss of Dunleavy, with Caulfield pacing the sideline, warning against sitting too deep. The arrival of Mark Quigley and Daryl Kavanagh demonstrated the strength of Liam Buckley's bench but the composed way in which Cork shut them out was a credit to their organisation.
As the team to be shot at, the Saints will have to get used to facing such stern resistance. Caulfield, by contrast, will be hoping that this is the start of something.
Cork City – McNulty, Lenihan, D Dennehy, Murray, Dunleavy; Kearney, Healy, Morrissey, B Dennehy; Buckley; Elding (O'Sullivan 65).
St Patrick's Athletic – Clarke, O'Brien, Oman, Browne, Bermingham; Bolger, Fahey, Brennan; Byrne (Quigley 78), Fagan (Kavanagh 83), Forrester.
Ref – P Sutton (Clare)