For the third time this season, a late St Patrick’s Athletic goal proved costly for Cork City as Ronan Hale struck a 90th-minute winner at Turner’s Cross on Friday night.
In an even game, City might have felt that they had deserved a win but they had certainly done enough to earn a draw as the game moved into injury time. However, Hale – who had just failed to get on the end of a low cross minutes beforehand – had other ideas as he seized possession 25 yards out and made space but sending a low curling shot beyond Mark McNulty and into the net.
The result means City have now gone eight league games without a win and victory for Finn Harps over Bohemians means the gap to ninth place is beginning to narrow.
City had one change from Sunday’s draw at home to Shamrock Rovers, as Karl Sheppard returned from suspension to take the place of Dáire O’Connor, who had got the goal against the Hoops. However, while Sheppard had captained the side for much of the season, defender Conor McCarthy retained the armband. Garry Buckley, also banned against Rovers, was on the bench, as was new signing Eoghan Stokes.
With City looking to attack from the off, they went close early on as Gearóid Morrissey picked up a loose ball 30 yards out and drove at the Pat’s defence before unleashing a piledriver, which was just wide of Brendan Clarke’s post. However, while they were playing good football, with Dan Casey looking to play the ball out of defence, City found it difficult to break Pat’s down for much of the opening half.
The visitors weren’t a huge goal threat either, though centre-forward Gary Shaw looked to link up with the runs of midfielder Darragh Markey. The Saints did go close on 18 minutes as right-back Lee Desmond sent over a cross while captain Ian Bermingham was unable to meet.
On 25, Conor McCormack did well to get his head in the way of Conor Clifford’s long-range shot, at the expense of some treatment. At the same time as that, Mark O’Sullivan was being assessed after a head injury and when he was deemed unable to carry on, Stokes replaced him for his City debut.
That coincided with City picking up the tempo again and Sheppard set up Joel Coustrain for a half-chance, with Pat’s defender Kevin Toner needing to clear for a corner. Gearóid Morrissey delivered that to the back post and Dan Casey was unlucky not to get more on the ball.
While Mark McNulty had to do well to dive at the feet of Conor Clifford when he tried to get on the end of Shaw’s pass, City had the upper hand and finished the half brightly. As the interval approached, Coustrain and Stokes linked well to allow Kevin O’Connor a shot which was heading goalwards but Pat’s defender Ciarán Kelly got a good block in.
The second half followed much the same pattern as the first, City marginally on top in terms of the play but few clear-cut chances at either end. Eight minutes after the restart, Coustrain found Stokes in space outside the area but his first effort in a City shirt was well off-target. Soon after that, the former Bohemians and Derry City attacker did well to pressurise Brendan Clarke after a backpass but just failed to keep the ball in play.
Just after the hour mark, Pat’s midfielder Conor Clifford drove into the City area and when he went down there was a collective intake of breath. While referee Ben Connolly blew his whistle, it was to award City a free kick, with the Pat’s number 6 yellow-carded.
When City’s number 6 Morrissey made another surge goalward on 65, his shot from the edge of the area was just wide again. Soon after that, Pat’s did fashion a proper chance as Dean Clarke got on the end of a ball out of defence but McNulty saved well. Pat's had the ball in the net from the resultant corner but the goalkeeper was being fouled.
Conor McCarthy and Karl Sheppard went close as City chased a winner, but instead when the goal came it was Hale who scored it. City had a late chance to salvage a draw as Stokes rolled a free kick to Dan Casey but his effort was straight at Brendand Clarke and Pat’s took the win.
McNulty; Horgan, McCarthy, Casey, Hurley; McCormack, Morrissey; Coustrain (D O’Connor 62), K O’Connor (Buckley 62), Sheppard; O’Sullivan (Stokes 26).
B Clarke; Desmond, Webster, Kelly (Hale 74), Toner; Lennon; D Clarke, Markey (Coleman 90), Clifford, Bermingham; Shaw (McAuley 84).
B Connolly (Dublin).