Cork City became the first team to book their place in the semi-finals of the EA Sports Cup thanks to a deserved 2-1 win over premier division St Patrick’s Athletic in front of a small, but pleased, crowd at Turner’s Cross on Monday afternoon.
In a game between the big two form teams in the country, something had to give and as it turned out it was the home side that progressed thanks to a convincing attacking display.
The Saints had not been beaten since Sligo Rovers took the points at The Showgrounds in early April, while City are the only team not to have lost in the both division’s in the league. But, at the end of the 90 minutes, Pete Mahon’s side could have had little to complain about as they were often outclassed by an, at times, terrific performance from the Leesiders.
Pat’s almost got off to a perfect start when inside nine minutes Paul Crowley bundled into the net from four yards. He raced away in celebration, but the offside flag was raised and the home team were let off the hook. It gave them a slight wake-up call and they soon moved up a gear.
While in the opening exchanges they rarely got in behind the Pat’s defence, it all started to change when the ball was worked out wide to Derek O’Brien. It was the exciting attacker who broke the deadlock on 19 with one of the best goals you’re likely to see at any LoI ground this season.
Evan McMillan conceded possession cheaply to Vincent Escudé-Candau and he played to O’Brien, with the former Galway United winger unleashing a sublime right-footed effort which was stitched to the top corner of the net with Chris Bennion at full stretch.
City were creating some decent moves going forward, with O’Brien shining every time he got the ball and Kalen Spillane, who was at consummate ease at the back once more, was unlucky not to double the lead when he hooked over after Cummins cut back Morrissey’s free-kick. Attacking is certainly not his strength, but he more than makes up for it at the back.
St Pat’s finished the half with a spell of dominance however, as Daryl Kavanagh forced McNulty into a brilliant one-handed save, while Shane McFaul’s mis-hit effort on 38 minutes from a glorious position should have been the equaliser.
O’Brien looked like a constant threat and after a neat one-two with Graham Cummins shortly before the break, carving open the Pat’s defence in the process, his goalward effort was cleared off the line by Ian Bermingham.
The Saints came out of the traps quickly in the second half and Crowley missed a wonderful chance after Kavanagh headed the ball to him six yards from goal. Nonetheless, the equaliser arrived soon enough as Sean Stewart’s cross from the left was met by the head of Neil Harney, he nodded across goal and into the far corner of the net.
City didn’t possess the same threat in the second half and with extra-time looking increasingly likely, Escudé-Candau assisted Cummins, he turned McMillan inside-out before curling a beauty in off the right post.
The French midfielder deserved a goal for his hard work in midfield and he was unlucky on 74 when Chris Bennion got a touch to his goalbound punt. City closed out the game in impressive fashion, leaving Pat’s restricted to little attempts in front of goal, though McNulty pulled off a miraculous double save in the last act of the afternoon, palming away both David Mulcahy and Kavanagh’s attempts.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Stephen Mulcahy, Kalen Spillane, Gavin Kavanagh, Neal Horgan; Gearóid Morrissey (Ian Turner, 86), Greg O’Halloran, Vincent Escudé-Candau, Shane Duggan, Derek O’Brien; Graham Cummins.
Subs not used: Jamie Murphy, Danny Morrissey, Eoin McGreevy, James McCarthy, Kieran Kenneally, Simon Holland.
Booked: O’Halloran, Escudé-Candau.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Chris Bennion; Neil Harney, Evan McMillan, David Mulcahy, Ian Bermingham; Paul Crowley (Anto Murphy, 88), Stephen Bradley, Shane McFaul (James O’Brien, 77), Sean Stewart (Mark Logan, 88); Daryl Kavanagh, Daniel North.
Subs not used: David McMillan, Ian Daly, Jake Carroll, Gary Rogers.
Booked: Bermingham, O’Brien.
Referee: P Sutton (Clare).
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Vincent Escudé-Candau – a cultured display from the midfielder.
Alan Smith works as a sub-editor for the Guardian newspaper in London. Originally from Cork, he freelances for several other newspapers and websites. Follow him on twitter @alansmith90.