Premier Division: Sligo Rovers 2 - 2 Cork CitySun, Jul 22 2012
WITH a half hour to play in Sligo on Sunday night, it looked like the home side’s lead at the top of the Airtricity League Premier Division table would remain at just three points. As a spirited Cork City went two goals ahead and defended remarkably well, it looked like Rovers would suffer their second defeat of the season. In the end, though, the long-time frontrunners showed their resolve with a might comeback.
Danny Murphy and Kalen Spillane made several herculean blocks for the away side while their midfield worked tirelessly, but it was a familiar story in the end for Cork as they maintained their unbeaten run only for another draw to feel like a defeat after throwing away a hard-earned lead.
In the end it was substitute Mark Quigley that proved to be Sligo’s hero with a second-half brace which brought them back from the death to salvage a result that may very well have a huge role to play if they’re to end a 35 year wait for a league title.
Many of the 2,227 in attendance weren’t even born the last time the Bit O’Red were crowned champions but the positive, unrelenting mentality that was shown after falling two behind here was another example that this year could really be theirs.
As you’d expect, they started with purpose, attacking the Cork defence like an oncoming freight train. And there were just four minutes clocked up when the Bit O’Red were awarded the opening opportunity of the evening, Ross Gaynor’s in-swinger parried by City stopper Mark McNulty with David Cawley skewing a gift of a chance into the side-netting.
A couple of corners followed but the Showgrounds was soon stunned into silence when Cork, on their first jaunt out of their own half, broke the deadlock. An incredulous Ian Turner will have claimed the goal though his effort, after a rapid break forward down the right, was deflected heavily into the net by a retreating Cawley, leaving a static Gary Rogers with no chance.
The pattern up until that point soon resumed with Sligo dominant but there was little arguing that Cork remained dangerous on the counter-attack. Davin O’Neill fizzed a cross in from the left in another break, Vinny Sullivan about an inch too short to really connect with the ball.
That, however, came just after Mark McNulty fumbled a Gaynor attempt. Gaynor then forced the Cork keeper into a good save at full stretch on 16 minutes, Seamus Conneely providing the pass from the corner of the area. Pascal Millien had the crowd on their feet again when he danced and weaved his way past three Cork defenders before Danny Murphy got a crucial leg to his shot.
Daryl Horgan, against his former club, shot straight at Rogers immediately after and although Sligo fizzed numerous threatening crosses in, the next best opportunity arrived to the tricky winger with 34 gone – sending a right-footed curler over the head of the backtracking Rogers, who just managed to get a touch on the dipping effort to turn it over the bar and out for a corner.
Millien was electrifying each time the ball came to his feet and he almost dragged the home team back on level terms on the verge of half-time with a shot that screwed narrowly over the bar, resulting in plenty of groans from the agitated home support.
The league leaders turned the pressure up further on the resumption but McNulty produced two heroic saves to keep Cork’s slender lead intact, the first from Boco and the second from a point-blank Danny North header.
Then, once again completely against the run of play, Cork made it 2-0 through a fantastically opportunistic strike from Vinny Sullivan. It came from another rampant counter-attack, with the striker, who’s in his richest vein of form for many a year.
That shellshocked Sligo momentarily but they soon found their stride and halved the arrears, Quigley, introduced from the bench eight minutes in to the second period, swinging a delightful free-kick into the top left corner of the net.
With 26 minutes still to play, there was loads of time left to get a result and although Quigley rattled the bar in the 74th minute, he had the home support in raptures when dispatching a penalty-kick with six minutes to play to the bottom left corner after Gavin Kavanagh took down North and Paul Tuite hesitantly pointed towards the spot.
Incredibly, Quigley headed over from three yards in the second minute of injury time but he still earned the plaudits in a thrilling encounter.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Seamus Conneely, Gavin Peers, Jason McGuinness, Ross Gaynor; Pascal Millien, David Cawley, Danny Ventre (Lee Lynch, 77), Romauld Boco (Ryan Connolly, 72), John Dillon (Mark Quigley, 53); Danny North.
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Jeff Henderson, Martin Owens, Raffaele Cretaro.
Booked: Cawley (29), Gaynor (57).
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Colin Healy, Gavin Kavanagh, Kalen Spillane, Danny Murphy; Ian Turner, Shane Duggan, John Dunleavy, Daryl Horgan; Vinny Sullivan (Andy O’Connell, 90), Davin O’Neill (Keigan Parker, 82).
Subs not used: Kevin Burns, Kevin Murray, Neal Horgan, Stephen Kenny, Graham McCarthy.
Booked: Spillane (56), D Horgan (59), Parker (86).
Referee: Paul Tuite.
Official attendance: 2,227
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Mark Quigley (Sligo Rovers).
Alan Smith has been writing for ExtraTime since 2008. He works as a full-time journalist based in Cork, working as a sub-editor for TCM and freelancing for a range of national titles. Follow him on twitter @alansmith90.