Cork City missed the opportunity to close ground on Airtricity League Premier Division leaders Dundalk, as they were held to 1-1 draw with Bray Wanderers at Turner’s Cross
Gareth McDonagh capitalised on poor defending to slot Ismahil Akinade’s ball past Mark McNulty with just 14 minutes gone and despite dominating much of the play and seeing their opponents reduce to ten men, John Caulfield’s side went in behind at the break.
The Leesiders piled on huge pressure in the second half; however, though Garry Buckley drew City level on 50 minutes with a lovely strike, no one could find the golden touch to secure a winner for the men in green.
City dominated proceedings early on and their first chance came via a Brian Lenihan ball on 13 minutes. Unfortunately, Mark O’Sullivan couldn’t get a meaningful touch and Wanderers keeper Stephen McGuinness was able to gather.
A minute later the in-form title challengers were behind. Akinade charged through City’s midfield unchallenged and when the ball fell kindly to former Celtic youth academy starlet McDonagh, his effort on the volley beat Mark McNulty.
The Leesiders didn’t take long to respond - Garry Buckley forcing a fingertip save from McGuinness, following good work from John Dunleavy and Billy Dennehy, with 20 minutes on the clock.
McNulty had to be on his toes near the half-hour mark when Akinade - one of Bray’s biggest threats on the night - raced in on goal and the City keeper sprinted from his line to knock the ball out for a throw.
Wanderers were reduced to ten men on 32 minutes. Referee David McKeon reached straight for his back pocket after watching Michael Barker’s late and horribly clumsy tackle on Dunleavy.
Cillian Morrison got his head to Billy Dennehy’s follow-up set piece but there was no one close enough to take advantage of the rebound.
The visitors packed in tightly behind the ball to close out the rest of the first half, reducing City - via Gearoid Morrissey - to fire in a couple of efforts from long distance.
Caulfield introduced Danny Morrissey at half time and his arrival brought a sense of urgency to the home side’s play. A minute in, the young striker raced down the right and found O’Sullivan with a lovely ball inside. O’Sullivan recovered from a poor first touch to fire just wide of McGuinness’ post.
The equaliser came four minutes later. The move started with Gearoid Morrissey who sent Billy Dennehy free down the left. The winger’s ball inside was knocked on by O’Sullivan and Buckley was on hand to fire a left-footed shot beyond McGuinness in the Bray goal.
City should have gone ahead two minutes later when Billy Dennehy fed Danny Morrissey with a neat pass, but the number 15 blazed his effort well over the bar from the edge of the area and missed a second gilt-edged opportunity moments later when he hooked the ball to wide from near the penalty spot.
The home side had a well-bandaged Dunleavy to thank for maintaining parity with an hour gone. McNulty was guilty of sending a poor ball forward and Bray’s quick counterattack saw substitute Philly Hughes nutmeg City’s number one, only to see his would-be goal knocked away by the host’s captain.
Good play from Lenihan and Billy Dennehy saw another Garry Buckley effort blocked by the Bray defence on 72 minutes and Morrissey followed up with another looping header two minutes later - only to see McGuinness, once again, save comfortably.
Gearoid Morrissey saw another effort hit the post on 79 minutes while his namesake Danny tested McGuinness with header as the game ticked on towards full time. City had all the possession in the final minutes; unfortunately for the 2,531-strong home crowd, however, the men in green failed to make the vital breakthrough.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Brian Lenihan, Dan Murray, Darren Dennehy, John Dunleavy; Cillian Morrison (Danny Morrissey ’46), Colin Healy, Gearoid Morrissey, Gary Buckley (Josh O’Shea ’89), Billy Dennehy; Mark O’Sullivan.
Substitutes: John Kavanagh, Michael McSweeney, Dave O’Leary, Kevin O’Brien, Liam Kearney.
Bray Wanderers: Stephen McGuinness; Michael Barker, Adam Mitchell, Niall Cooney, Joe Gorman; Graham Kelly, Dean Zambra, Ismahil Akinade, David Cassidy (Shane O’Connor ’46), David Scully; Gareth McDonagh (Philip Hughes ’56).
Substitutes: Shane Redmond, Robert Maloney, Sean Hurley, Ryan Coombes, Jake Kelly.
Referee: David McKeon