Cork City 0
Apart from the fact that there is now one game less to play, the race for the First Division title and promotion to the Premier Division is as you were after Cork City were held to a 0-0 draw by 10-man Galway at Turner’s Cross last night.
Despite playing with a man less for 75 minutes in front of a crowd of 6,393 following the dismissal of Ed McCarthy, Galway held on to earn a draw but it is City who still sit a point clear at the top of the table with a game in hand.
It was probably the biggest game the Cross has hosted since City’s Europa League clash with Rosenborg back in 2018. It arguably even rivaled the Champions League clash against Legia Warsaw earlier that summer.
That’s because a club of Cork City’s stature and the passionate fan base that it has needs to be playing in the top tier and the longer they remain in the first division the harder it will be to regain that status.
Manager Colin Healy was boosted by the availability of Ally Gilchrist and Matt Healy and they were his only two changes from the side that started their 3-1 win away to Bray Wanderers two weeks previous with Matt Srbely and James Doona dropping to the bench.
Former City boss John Caulfield also made two alterations to his starting eleven from their last outing — a 3-0 win against Cobh Ramblers at Eamonn Deacy Park — with Rob Manley making his first start having scored off the bench in that game while Max Hemmings also came in with Francely Lomoboto and Alex Murphy making way.
Both sides matched up in a similar 3-5-2 formation but it was the visitors that settled into his huge occasion the quickest and they dominated the opening exchanges.
For all their possession though their best effort came in fortuitous circumstances as the excellent Stephen Walsh’s scuffed strike broke kindly in the penalty area for Manley but his effort was smothered at his feet by David Harrington.
The Rebel Army were struggling to create chances at the other end as a blocked Cian Murphy shot was the only thing that had the huge crowd on its feet inside the first 15 minutes.
That was until the contest swung hugely in their favour on the quarter of an hour mark when Ed McCarthy was shown a straight red card for kicking out at Cian Bargary, who was leading a City counter-attack.
But a combination of factors including Galway sitting deeper, City being too slow in possession, and three enforced substitutions due to Ally Gilchrist, David Harrington, and Josh Honohan — although that may have been tactical with the more direct Dylan McGlade coming on — suffering knocks ensured a tame first period remained 0-0 at the half time break.
City had used all five of their subs by the 55th minute with Louis Britton making his debut but despite now controlling possession, their only attempts at goal — a long ranger from Bargary and a header at the near post by Murphy — were easily saved by keeper Conor Kearns.
But led by their excellent captain Conor McCormack — a former City skipper — Galway continued to fight and they again went the closest to scoring as the second 45 progressed.
McCormack’s inswinging free kick from the left flank somehow found Stephen Walsh inside a packed box but Jimmy Corcoran did well to palm his close-range header away to safety.
Then in the 71st minute, McCormack saw his corner hit the bar before Walsh’s ambitious bicycle kick was blocked on its way towards goal as City were suddenly hanging on to what still would’ve been a valuable point despite all the pre-match hype.
They went close to netting a sensational winner late on but Coffey, Bargary, and Murphy all sent shots wide before Bolger’s cross needed to be tipped over as Galway hung on for a share of the spoils.
CORK CITY: David Harrington; Jonas Hakkinen, Ally Gilchrist, Josh Honohan; Cian Bargary, Cian Coleman, Matt Healy, Aaron Bolger, Kevin O’Connor; Ruairí Keating, Cian Murphy.
Subs: Matt Srbely for Ally Gilchrist (23), Jimmy Corcoran for David Harrington (43), Dylan McGlade for Josh Honohan (43), Barry Coffey for Matt Healy (55), Louis Britton for Ruairí Keating (55).
GALWAY UNITED: Conor Kearns; Conor O’Keeffe, James Finnerty, Charlie Lyons; Max Hemmings, David Hurley, Manu Dimas, Conor McCormack, Ed McCarthy; Stephen Walsh, Rob Manley.
Subs: Diego Portilla for Manu Dimas (22), Wilson Waweru for Rob Manley (66), Gary Boylan for David Hurley (89).
Referee: Sean Grant (Wexford).