By Ed Leahy
There are certain goals that can define a league-winning campaign and Friday night’s injury-time penalty at Richmond Park could be that moment should St Patrick’s Athletic go on to take the title.
Bombarding the Cork City goal (see below for Mark McNulty’s contribution), Saints then found themselves a goal behind thanks to a Ciaran Kilduff counter-attack.
But Liam Buckley’s side showed great character to bounce back with an equaliser within a few minutes before grabbing all three points with virtually the last kick of the game.
Dundalk and Derry kept up the chase with 1-0 victories against Bray and Limerick respectively, while the battle at the Swowgrounds did neither Sligo nor Shamrock Rovers any favours after a scoreless draw.
This week’s team of the week is not about formations but the best XI on show. Well that’s our way of getting out of the quandary of naming two goalkeepers.
Team of the week:
Mark McNulty (Cork City) The goalkeeper showed his alertness as early as the third minute when cutting out a John Russell cross and he maintained his vigilance with a string of superb saves in the opening period to frustrate the league leaders. Anto Flood, Killian Brennan and Christopher Forrester were all denied in the first half and similar quality saves to thwart Forrester, Conan Byrne and Flood looked to have ensured his side a precious league point. Alas...
Barry Ryan (Limerick) A regular fixture in our teams of the week, Ryan was again on top form to save a penalty to deny Derry the opener in the first half, before producing save after save to keep Limerick in this tie. The veteran was helpless to stop David McDaid's strike and deservedly got man of the match.
Simon Madden (Derry City) The Candystripes most consistent player as Derry grabbed a valuable away win in Limerick. As ever, Madden’s overlapping work rate was decisive and won the penalty in the end for Derry.
Gavin Peers (Sligo Rovers) A mainstay in the heart of the Sligo Rovers defence over the past seven seasons, Peers brought his solid performance from Wednesday night's Champions League defeat to Molde FK into Saturday's clash of the Rovers. Blocking down a late Eamon Zayed chance and an even later Gary McCabe effort, Peers saved the Bit O'Red a point when it looked as if either Hoops player could have stolen all three for the visiting side.
Alan Byrne (Drogheda United) Defensively terrific throughout for Drogheda as they shared the spoils with Bohemians on Friday night. Byrne won every header and marshalled Drogheda's back line superbly. It was fitting that Byrne popped up with the goal for Mick Cooke’s side.
Killian Brennan (St Patrick's Athletic) Another regular on this season's weekly selection, Brennan and the Saints midfield controlled the game and would have had all three points wrapped up had it not been for the City keeper's heroics. Not many would fancy stepping up to take an injury-time penalty to take all three points in a push for the league title. Brennan didn't give it a second thought and slotted the ball home for victory.
Raffaele Cretaro (Sligo Rovers) The speedy winger was a constant threat to the Shamrock Rovers defence on Saturday evening. Cretaro was the vital cog that made Sligo tick, especially in the first half. Cretaro continued his fine display throughout the game and set up David McMillan with a fantastic opportunity to open the lead just before the hour mark. The Bit O'Red have sorely missed his energy, pace and commitment over the past few weeks through injury.
Anto Flood (St Patrick’s Athletic) With Cork City goalkeeper Mark McNulty in inspired form, St Pat’s required something special to get the better of him and Flood duly delivered with an exceptional finish from the edge of the area. Receiving the ball under pressure, Flood turned sharply and crashed an audacious effort high to McNulty’s right and with Killian Brennan ensuring a hard-earned win, Flood’s contribution was all the more valuable.
Dinny Corcoran (Bohemians) The Bohs striker worked tirelessly up front all night, coming close on a couple of occasions to giving his side some reward against a stronger, more experienced Drogheda team. Corcoran’s form could prove the difference as Bohemians struggle to move away from the relegation zone.
Pat Hoban (Dundalk) The in-form striker was at his best once again as his pace caused the Bray central defenders untold problems throughout the contest and they were never comfortable with the pressure he put on them. Again Hoban got himself into some decent goalscoring positions and although a clear cut chance never presented itself, his perfect pass for Byrne at the start of the second half was the moment of magic that was the difference between the sides.
Marty Waters (Bray Wanderers) The one man who looked a constant threat to the Lilywhites rearguard, much like Hoban for the home side, no matter which flank he found himself on. Waters was desperately unlucky in the first half with two clever strikes that each were an inch away from finding their target and on another night he may have done so.