After this week’s events in the Champions League, popular opinion is that tiki-taka is dead in the water, but St. Patrick’s Athletic proved that this is not true with a dominant 2-0 victory over Cork City in Turner’s Cross.
The Saints were indeed super on Friday evening in Cork, as they passed their opponents to death, with a performance punctuated by two goals either side of the half-time break – one from Anto Flood, and the other from John Russell.
The win takes on massive meaning in the race for the league title, as it means Pats put serious pressure on the top two Derry City and Sligo Rovers.
For City however, things aren’t looking quite so good. They were comprehensively beaten on the night by a much better football team, and mid-table mediocrity could be the order of the day unless their uninspiring form can be rectified.
City boss Tommy Dunne made two changes from the team that beat Bray last Monday night, bringing in Dan Murray and Daryl Kavanagh at the expense of Kalen Spillane and Denis Behan.
His opposite number Liam Buckley also changed things around from their previous fixture, seeing Greg Bolger and Killian Brennan return from suspension and injury respectively to replace Sean Gannon and Shane McFaul.
St. Pat’s began the game as they meant to carry on in a dominating fashion, and carved out their first chance after nine minutes. Anto Flood dropped his shoulder before seeing his effort parried away by Mark McNulty, before Gearoid Morrissey went up the other end for Cork City and churned out two similar efforts – with neither coming to fruition.
The first real moment of the game to get the supporters up off their feet came 14 minutes in. Greg Bolger saw an opening from distance and let rip, only to see his well-struck effort cannon off the post and rebound away.
Eight minutes later, the visitors had a most deserved lead, taken by one of the simplest goals you can score. Chris Forrester whipped in a cross from the left wing for Anto Flood to rise highest in the area and guide the ball home with a well-taken glancing header.
City failed to respond well to going a goal down at all, and only created one chance of not for the remainder of the first half – and what a chance it was. Daryl Kavanagh bore down on goal with just goalkeeper Brendan Clarke at his mercy, but his delicate little chip was smothered.
Three minutes after the half time break, St. Pat’s had doubled their advantage. John Russell endeavoured on a driving run through the middle of the park before performing a clever one-two with Anto Flood and then stroking his effort into the back of the net.
Cork City continued to press on although you couldn’t help but feel it was in vain. Just past the hour mark however, Daryl Kavanagh squandered two excellent chances. The first saw him mistime a pass to Daryl Horgan on the edge of the box, the second saw him fire inexplicably over from just two yards out.
A flurry of substitutions failed to swing the balance of the tie in City’s favour, and the closing stages were very much a non-event punctuated by the confidence and effortless superiority showed by the men in red and white shirts.
With six minutes of normal time remaining, St. Pat’s were awarded a gilt edged opportunity to make it 3-0 and well and truly good night in the form of a spot kick. Substitute Christy Fagan stepped up to take it, but sent his tame effort straight into Mark McNulty’s gloves.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; John Dunleavy, Dan Murray, Darren Dennehy, Danny Murphy; Ian Turner (Danny Morrissey, 56), Gearoid Morrissey, Colin Healy, Shane Duggan, Daryl Horgan (Denis Behan, 69); Daryl Kavanagh (Adam Rundle, 69).
Subs not used: Kevin Burns, Danny Furlong, Kalen Spillane, Neal Horgan.
Booked: Daryl Horgan (24), Darren Dennehy (46).
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Conor Kenna, Kenny Browne, Ian Bermingham; Greg Bolger, Conan Byrne, Killian Brennan (Shane McFaul, 90); John Russell, Anto Flood (Christy Fagan, 72), Chris Forrester (Jake Kelly, 88)
Subs not used: Dave Ryan, Sean Gannon, Jake Carroll, Aidan Price
Referee: Rob Rogers.
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Greg Bolger (St Patrick's Ath) - The midfielder returned from suspension and put in a monumental shift, at times resembling a Duracell bunny more than a footballer.
Alan is a freelance sports journalist based in Cork. He joined the ExtraTime team back in the summer of 2012, and covers all things football-related from the Rebel County - whether it be at Turner's Cross or St. Colman's Park. Follow him on Twitter @AlanFeehely