By Liam Mackey
For Cork City, it’s now six games without a win under Neale Fenn and four games in succession without a goal.
And, adding insult to injury for the visitors, while the Dalymount Park public address hailed Bohemians skipper Derek Pender as the scorer of the game’s decisive goal, it is certain to go down in the records as an own goal by Tadhg Ryan after the City goalkeeper had a moment to forget at the start of the second half.
With Finn Harps sharing a scoreless draw with UCD, the gap between the Donegal side and Cork City has been reduced to six points but at least the latter’s Premier Division destiny remains in their own hands and, because of a much superior goal difference, a win — should it finally come — against the Students in Turner’s Cross next Friday would effectively secure Cork’s place in the top flight next season.
City arrived in Phibsboro still smarting from a 4-0 drubbing in Derry in last week, even if Fenn had felt the final score flattered the Candystripes.
But in a season to forget for the Rebels, at least prior to this game they had been able to reference a rewarding record against Bohs. Although it was Keith Long’s side who eliminated them from the EA Sports Cup, in three previous meetings in the league, City had taken seven points from a possible nine and kept the opposition scoreless to boot.
But that all changed for both sides tonight.
Bohemians were minus U21 internationals Darragh Leahy through injury and playmaker Danny Mandroiu after his red card in last week’s cup semi-final defeat to Shamrock Rovers, while for Cork, Gearoid Morrissey missed out with an ankle injury and was replaced in the starting line-up by Joel Coustrain. And, back on familiar soil, Dan Casey came in for Jake O’Brien after the latter’s challenging debut in the Brandywell.
With Ireland manager Mick McCarthy looking on, Bohs quickly established the night’s dominant tone, the always threatening Danny Grant cutting inside off the left but driving his right-footed shot well wide of the target before a Keith Ward corner eluded everyone in a packed box, including City’s Tadhg Ryan who’d come off his line in a failed attempt to punch clear.
The keeper did much better 15 minutes into the game, showing sharp reflex reactions to turn a close-range header from Ross Tierney over the bar.
It was a vibrant, front-foot start by the home side which clearly unsettled a nervous-looking City who gave away possession all too frequently in the early exchanges.
Even when they did create their first opening, after Conor McCarthy had put Shane Griffin away down the left, the waiting Karl Sheppard’s attempt on goal saw him mis-hit the shot against his own hand at the expense of a free out. The ball might have taken an unkind bobble but still, it was the kind of snatched effort which summed up City’s anxiety not only in front of goal but all around the pitch.
As ever, Conor McCormack battled hard to raise morale and generate momentum and it was his dipping shot over the angle of crossbar and post which briefly had Bohs hearts in mouths coming up to the half-hour mark.
As the visitors finally began to get a foothold in the game, home goalkeeper James Talbot then had to make his first significant save of the night, diving full length to turn an Eoghan Stokes drive around the foot of the post.
But almost straight from the restart Bohemians took the lead and it came in the form of a personal calamity for Ryan, as the back-pedalling goalkeeper caught a curling Derek Pender effort under his bar but then, as he fell to the ground, allowed the ball to slip from his grasp and squirm over the goal-line.
City tried to recover immediately from the self-inflicted wound, Shane Griffin picking out Eoghan Stokes at the edge of the box with a drilled ball from the left but the latter’s effort, struck first-time with the outside of his foot, spun inches wide of the post.
You couldn’t fault Cork’s endeavour but the blunt truth is that, after that Stokes attempt, an equally blunt attack never remotely looked like getting the visitors back on level terms, Talbot in the home goal virtually a spectator for the rest of a night which ended with Cork deflated once again and the home side applauded off the pitch as they moved up to third in the Premier Division.
BOHEMIANS: Talbot; Pender (Barker (75) Cornwall, Finnerty, Kirk, Allardice, Tierney, Ward (Devoy 81) Wade-Slater, Grant (Graydon 91), Wright
CORK CITY: Ryan, Horgan, McCarthy, Casey, Griffin, McCormack, Byrne, D O’Connor (Holland 83), Coustrain (O’Brien-Whitmarsh 89), Sheppard, Stokes (75).
Referee: Rob Harvey (Dublin)