By Denis Hurley for EchoLive.ie
While Cork City moved up a spot to seventh with a draw against Sligo Rovers on Friday night, the Rebel Army will have been disappointed not to build on a good start.
Before 1,984 at the Showgrounds, City had a great start through Graham Cummins’ early opener but Sligo provided a strong reaction and it was hard to argue that the Bit o’Red didn’t deserve at least a draw.
The result means that City are seventh as they go into the summer break, but with Wateford, a point behind, having three games in hand on the Rebel Army.
City were forced into four changes from their last league outing, the 1-1 draw with St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park a fortnight ago.
Seán McLoughlin, Conor McCormack, Shane Griffin and Karl Sheppard were all unavailable – none of the four was in the matchday 18 – while Dan Casey, Garry Comerford, Dáire O’Connor and Cummins came into the team and it was Cummins who had a near-immediate impact.
Only five minutes had elapsed when he struck for his fourth goal of the season, volleying home when Romeo Parkes couldn’t get enough purchase on a defensive header from a James Tilley corner on the right-hand side.
Though Sligo responded brightly to that, City had a platform and had more than a few chances to get a second goal in the opening half-hour. Gearóid Morrissey, who scored at the Showgrounds earlier in the season, had an early shot at Ed McGinty from Garry Buckley’s lay-off and later on he had a long-range effort which whistled over, while Cummins was twice off-target as the chances continued to come.
However, Sligo came back strongly and gave notice of their intentions as Romeo Parkes flashed a ball across goal when even the slightest touch would have sent the ball in.
Soon after that, they did have the ball in the net, however. When they won a free kick on the right, Sam Warde’s delivery was good and Daryl Fordyce met it at the back post to divert the ball back across, giving former City man Ronan Coughlan the easy task of nodding home from a matter of yards out.
That was in the 27th minute and from there to half-time there was little doubt that Sligo were the stronger team and likelier to get the game’s third goal.
Coughlan almost set up Fordyce but the midfielder couldn’t settle himself for a clean shot and then when Kris Twardek did find the target from 20 yards Mark McNulty did well to save. In the midst of this red flow, City did force a chance as Morrissey’s interception set Cummins away but his low shot was easy for McGinty.
Eight minutes before half-time, a Sligo corner was cleared only as far as Warde outside the area and he caught his shot well but McNulty kept it out and then Conor McCarthy showed good awareness to intercept Ronan Murray’s pass for Parkes.
A Parkes shot was deflected out for a corner on 42 and moments later he got on the end of a Murray flick and created space for himself but his shot flew over the bar from close range.
It remained 1-1 at the break and after the resumption Sligo were still on top. Three minutes in, Parkes set up Twardek but he fired over and McCarthy had to defend well to prevent Coughlan getting on the end of an attempted one-two with Murray.
Just before the hour, Sligo’s John Mahon did find the net but unfortunately for the Bit o’Red it was after the offside flag had been raised. At the other end on 61, Garry Buckley and Kevin O’Connor did well to set up Tilley but the shot wasn’t troublesome for McGinty and the goalkeeper was also able to keep out a Tilley shot from distance.
Rovers sub John Russell had two opportunities in the wake of his introduction but both were wide and it was a similar case from City, Cummins heading just over from Tilley’s cross and sub Darragh Rainsford wide following a good ball in from Colm Horgan.
That was as close as either side came to a winner, with no late chances.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.