Cork thriving on European adventure
St Patrick's Athletic - 0 Cork City - 2: Europe, so often the downfall of clubs with title aspirations at home, seems to bring the best out in Cork City. Yet again the league leaders returned to action after a midweek outing in the Uefa Cup to take three precious points from a tricky away game.
The achievement yesterday didn't quite match the one in Drogheda a fortnight ago, for City hadn't travelled back from Lithuania this time and the Dubliners haven't beaten a team from the top half of the table all season; but it was still comfortably good enough to restore the southerners' seven-point advantage over Derry at the top of the table and extend the club's unbeaten run in the championship to 13 games.
"I thought the character we showed out there was outstanding," said manager Damien Richardson.
"They stood up to us and made it hard for a while, and we missed a couple of chances, but once the first one went in and they had to come out a bit more I thought that was it, the game was over.
"It's particularly pleasing to see Neale Fenn get a couple of goals for us," he added.
"His talent is beyond question, but I've looked for more goals from him; it's the one area of his game that isn't quite what it might be, and in the last few weeks he's delivered for us."
Having failed in a bid this week for Eamon Zayed, St Patrick's manager John McDonnell was left to lament the absence of a more forceful presence in their attack. On balance, he conceded to having few complaints on the day, but insisted that, with a couple of additions over the coming weeks, the side should be good enough to finish clear of trouble in the table.
This was a far more spirited performance from his side than the one produced at Belfield a couple of weeks ago, but against a team that has now won nine and drawn one of their 10 away league games, they were a little short of the required class in every key department.
With Colm Foley out injured, Stephen Caffrey and Darragh Maguire struggled to get to grips with a City attack, one remodelled from Thursday to include Fenn alongside John O'Flynn, with George O'Callaghan marauding not far behind.
In the air the visiting forward line won almost everything, and had it not been for an outstanding performance by goalkeeper Barry Ryan the deficit would have been much worse. Fenn, for a start, was deprived of a hat-trick thanks only to a fine penalty save seven minutes from time.
There were a couple of exceptional stops from play too, but the goalkeeper could have done nothing about either of the City goals. The first was a combination of a Keith Dunne error and some bad luck before Fenn tapped hope from a yard out, and the second came after the defence looked on as Liam Kearney, O'Callaghan and Fenn passed their way to the edge of the six-yard area from where Fenn simply picked his spot.
For McDonnell, Sean O'Connor produced flashes of the sort of attacking creativity that the Inchicore side could do with in much larger quantities, while Alan Reilly's debut, after arriving on Thursday in place of Keith Fahey, was promising, until he was sent off for a second bookable offence.
There was a further setback for the home club late on, meanwhile, as minor incidents off the pitch resulted in injuries to a couple of supporters. The trouble started when a City fan was hit in the face by a stone thrown by a local.
ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC: Ryan; Prenderville, Caffrey, Maguire, Frost; Dunne (Maher, 59 mins), Donnelly, Reilly, O'Connor; Rowe, Doyle (Foley, 84 mins).
CORK CITY: McNulty; Horgan, Bennett, Murray, Murphy; Gamble (O'Brien, 89 mins), O'Halloran, Kearney (Woods, 89 mins); O'Callaghan; Fenn, O'Flynn (Bruton, 88 mins).
Referee: P Whelan (Dublin).