Conan Byrne’s late winner helps St Pat’s go top of the table
Inury-time goal ensures champions pip battling Cork City in a five-goal thriller at Richmond Park
St Patrick’s Athletic’s Conan Byrne celebrates scoring a penalty against Cork City at Richmond Park. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
St Patrick’s Athletic 3 Cork City 2
For Cork City it was an altogether different type of defeat to the one suffered last week in Oriel Park but a second loss in succession against rivals on the road only adds to the doubts about their ability to sustain a championship challenge.
A late Conan Byrne winner, on the other hand, that made it 20 goals and 19 points from their last seven league games left the home side’s title defence in pretty good shape with this victory ensuring that the Dubliners move back to the top of the table.
Though they faded as the night went on and conceded the decisive goal in the dying moments, City were virtually unrecognizable through much of the game from the side that ambled their way to a hefty defeat in Dundalk a week ago.
Here, they displayed urgency in every area of the pitch and the close attention lavished on Keith Fahey, James Chambers and Lee Lynch as they tried to push their team from centre circle to City box paid particular dividends before the break.
The Dubliners were not helped by the loss of top scorer Christy Fagan who limped off shortly after a rough-looking challenge in the first minute by Dan Murray. Daryl Kavanagh replaced him but struggled to make much of an impact which wasn’t entirely surprising given how densely-packed things were around him at that stage.
Still, for all the early success of City’s containment policy it was a bit of a surprise when they took the lead after 15 minutes. Mark O’Sullivan scored from close range after latching on to Liam Kearney’s cross from the left with the home side’s defence having gone walkabout. After side-footing his first attempt straight at Brendan Clarke, the striker was still entirely unchallenged as bundled the rebound home.
Remarkably, given the actual balance of the game, there might have been a second with Sean Hoare failing to cut Billy Dennehy’s angled cross out only for Gary Buckley to completely miss it too.
But Liam Buckley’s men dramatically increased the tempo of their own game and soon set about turning the scoreline on its head. Finally they started to get on top of things in the final third and the visitors’ resistance began to crack.
Kavanagh had a goal disallowed for offside but within six minutes the locals had a penalty for a foul by Brian Lenihan on Ian Bermingham which Byrne blasted high into the middle of the net. Ten minutes after that the league champions took the lead. Kenny Browne, originally up for a corner, hung about long enough to turn home a low cross by Chris Forrester from the other side.
There was still more than half an hour remaining but it looked likely to be a winning position as Pat’s defence had rarely looked to be under threat at the other end. City shifted forward, of course, and started to look for another goal but the closest they initially came was a low, long-range effort by Dennehy that was firmly struck but directed straight at Clarke.
Cork moved to shake things up with a double substitution but couldn’t have bargained for Robert Lehane scoring within seconds of getting on after a misjudged back-pass by Ger O’Brien sent him racing clear.
The hosts stuck at it , though, and with the game in injury time Byrne rounded off a good passing move by turning the ball into the bottom right corner from a few yards out.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Clarke; O’Brien, Hoare, Browne, Bermingham; Fahey, Chambers (Brennan, 81 mins); Healy, Lynch, Forrester (Bolger, 87 mins); Fagan (Kavanagh, 4 mins).
CORK CITY: McNulty; Lenihan, Murray, Dennehy, Dunleavy; B Dennehy, Healy, G Morrissey, Kearney (Turner, 78 mins); Buckley (Lehane, 78 mins); O’Sullivan.
Referee: P Sutton (Clare)