CORK City’s FAI Cup run undeservedly ended to St Patrick’s Athletic in Turner’s Cross on Friday night.
The City players will be ruing a missed opportunity to have caused another upset in this year’s competition.
City were the better of the two sides over the course of the game, but experience told in the penalty shootout. The Pat’s players were more composed than City and never looked like missing from 12 yards.
Before the shootout began, I would have thought that shooting in the Shed end would have given the City players an advantage, but in hindsight, perhaps shooting into the end where the most vocal City fans were seated, was the incorrect decision.
Players are nervous in penalty shootouts. I believe that the players would have felt more pressure shooting into the Shed rather the St Anne’s end. That’s nothing against the City fans who were sitting in the Shed.
The fans were excellent and I’m sure were it not for the atmosphere they created, City wouldn’t have gotten back into the game to bring it to penalties.
However, for some of the players in the City squad it would have been their first time involved in a shootout at this level and perhaps they were more nervous shooting into an end where most of the atmosphere is created in the stadium.
Although City scored late on to bring the game to extra-time, the players will be disappointed not to be in the hat for the quarter-final draw. They showed more hunger and desire than Pat’s, and the Dubliners will know they had a lucky escape.
City were excellent right from the first whistle and didn’t give Pat’s a moment on the ball. I was surprised by how aggressive Colin Healy set his side up with Darragh Crowley and Dylan McGlade pushing high up the pitch on the Pat’s full-backs.
City’s tactics surprised Pat’s and they would have expected City to stand off and allow them to pass the ball out from the back before only really putting pressure on when Pat’s got into City’s half.
Healy’s side looked to get the ball in behind the Pat’s defences as quickly as they could and use the pace of Cian Murphy. The striker recently signed a new deal for City and it was easy to see why they were so eager to tie the Tipperary native down after this performance.
Murphy ran himself into the ground and troubled the Pat’s defence throughout the game. Based on his performance against premier opposition, he looks like a player who would be comfortable with the step-up in division. He was certainly better than the three Pat’s strikers on show.
Cian Coleman was another player that the club recently negotiated a new contract with and he showed just how valuable an asset he is with his performance.
He didn’t put a foot wrong throughout the game. Although he will still claim to prefer to play midfield, after another stellar performance in defence, it’s hard to see him ever being played in that position again. He dominated Ronan Coughlan, so much so that the former City player was substituted five minutes into the second half.
I thought, before the game, that it would be naïve of City to play with just two central midfielders, but Alec Byrne and Barry Coffey were excellent against Pat’s three-man midfield and dominated that area of the pitch. Coffey was one of those to miss a penalty, but he impressed me through the 120 minutes of play.
He’s a much fitter player than the one that arrived at City at the end of July and keeps improving with every game. Byrne has always had excellent technique and composure on the ball, but I enjoyed seeing his aggression in challenges.
Unfortunately, you don’t get medals for moral victories. Although City were the better side and deserved to go through to the next round, it’s Pats that will have their name in the hat for next round.
What the game did show was that a lot of these City players are capable of playing at a higher level, and after the atmosphere inside Turner’s Cross in this game, the players must be more determined than ever to get the club into the Premier Division.
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