On this day: Cork City and Shels served up a Christmas cracker in the Cross

4-4 draw was one of the great games of the era
On this day: Cork City and Shels served up a Christmas cracker in the Cross

Cork City players Ollie Cahill and Brian Barry-Murphy celebrate a goal at Turner's Cross. Picture: Denis Minihane.

FLASHBACK: December 28, 1997, Cork City 4 Shelbourne 4 

THIS was one of the great Christmas games featuring two teams in hot pursuit of the FAI Harp Lager Premier Division leaders St Patrick’s Athletic.

The Inchicore side had a three-point advantage over Shelbourne, when a topsy-turvy encounter finally came to a conclusion at Turner's Cross with City a further point behind.

And to further illustrate the highly competitive nature of the league Shamrock Rovers trailed City by only a point with Dundalk two points worse off in fifth.

City attracted their biggest crowd of the season with 6,000 paying through the turnstiles on a perfect afternoon for football and what a game they witnessed.

The home side scored first only to fall 2-1 behind before equalising just before the break, but there was still time for the Dubliners to sneak 3-2 in front as the players headed for the dressing rooms.

The second-half was equally dramatic, City first of all levelling at 3-3, then moving 4-3 ahead only for Shels to snatch a share of the points with another equaliser 10 minutes from the end.

It left both managers, Dave Barry and Damien Richardson, drained at the final whistle.

“It was a tremendous performance in a game where you would be hard-pressed to find entertainment value to match anywhere else,” said Barry.

The only downbeat note was echoed by Richardson, who lamented the absence of the tv cameras to record the game for posterity.

“That was a pity because it’s a tape I would keep for all time,” he said.

“For me, the game proved that Shelbourne and Cork City are the most open teams in the league and we both showed we are title contenders,” Richardson added.

Fans marvelled at the exciting wing play of City’s Ollie Cahill and Shels’ Mark Rutherford, a pair, who, fittingly, had influential roles to play.

City took the lead after just 10 minutes when Cahill cut down the flank before crossing for leading-scorer Colin O’Brien to strike a sweet half-volley.

Shels, however, were level at 1-1 within a minute, Mick Neville’s free headed past keeper Noel Mooney by Tony McCarthy.

A third goal arrived by the 15th minute though it was something of a freak as Gareth Cronin’s attempted headed clearance struck Pat Fenlon and rebounded into the net to edge Shels 2-1 in front.

Just as the game had opened in exciting fashion so did the closing stages with two more goals in a couple of minutes.

City made it 2-2 in the 43rd minute, when O’Brien repaid Cahill by sending him clear to grab the equaliser.

But, City were undone again in the air after a Rutherford cross was headed in by Dave Campbell.

The frantic nature of the tie continued on the resumption with City equalising for a second time, when a Declan Daly free was pulled back by Cahill for Noel Hartigan to level matters at 3-3.

Then, on the hour City’s half-time substitute Derek Coughlan raised one of the loudest roars of the afternoon by putting his side 4-3 ahead on the hour.

City couldn’t hold on to their slender advantage, though, and the visitors ensured they didn’t return to the capital empty-handed after the league’s leading marksman, Stephen Geoghegan, tapped in to bring an extraordinary match level once more, 4-4.

That’s how it finished and it left Barry to ponder the concession of so many goals from set pieces.

“We conceded three again this week, having given away two more the previous week against St Pat’s,” he commented.

“Apart from free and corner kicks I don’t think we were troubled too much over the course of the game.

“But, to come from being a goal behind at half-time to take the lead and finish the stronger team is a testament to the lads.

“It proved once again what I have been saying about their character.

“They are a team that never knows when it’s beaten and fight away until the final whistle.

“It’s still a unique situation to be in, having scored seven goals in two games and still only get two points,” Barry added.

Section of the huge crowd which supported Cork City when they returned from Bishopstown to Turner's Cross for a match against table-toppers St Pat's in February, 1997. 
Section of the huge crowd which supported Cork City when they returned from Bishopstown to Turner's Cross for a match against table-toppers St Pat's in February, 1997. 

CORK CITY: Mooney; Napier, Cronin, Daly, Long; Freyne, Cahill, Barry-Murphy, Kabia; O’Brien, Hartigan.

Subs: Coughlan for Napier, Caulfield for Hartigan.

SHELBOURNE: Gough; Costello, Neville, Campbell, McCarthy; Scully, Baker, Sheridan, Fenlon; Geoghegan, Rutherford. 

Subs: Smith for Costello, Kelly for Sheridan.

Referee: J McDermott (Dublin).

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