Cork City’s 2020 season came to an end with a draw against Derry City at Turner’s Cross on Monday night.
While Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh’s goal in the 59th minute looked as if it might give bottom side City a third victory of what has been a disappointing and frustrating campaign, an equaliser from Oluwaseun Akintunde earned Derry a share of the spoils.
It had been all of 16 days since City’s last game, the 2-1 defeat away to Sligo Rovers that, combined with Finn Harps’ win over Bohemians, condemned the Rebel Army to relegation. Interim manager Colin Healy made three changes from that match, with goalkeeper Mark McNulty returning in place of Liam Bossin while Dylan McGlade and Cian Bargary came in in the wide attacking positions for Joseph Olowu – who has returned to Arsenal after the end of his loan spell – and Kit Elliott.
Having played a 3-5-2 at Sligo, City were in a 4-3-3 here as McGlade and Bargary flanked O’Brien-Whitmarsh and the hosts battled well in the first half.
While McGlade had the first effort, shooting over after loose Derry defensive play, the Candystripes – who went into the night with a slim chance of being dragged into the relegation play-off – settled well and Adam Hammill had a shot which wasn’t far away after City failed to properly clear the danger from a free kick.
On 14 minutes, City’s Jake O’Brien had the ball in the net from a Kevin O’Connor free kick but the flag was up for offside. Bargary was very lively on the left flank and he went close two minutes later with a long-range shot but Derry were more than capable of creating danger at the other end. When nice footwork from Walter Figueira gave Joe Thomson a sight of goal, good defending was needed from City midfielder Alec Byrne at the expense of a corner while Kevin O’Connor had to do likewise on the half-hour when Ciarán Coll’s good pass from deep found striker Oluwaseun Akintunde in the area.
From that corner, City failed to fully clear the danger and midfielder Conor Clifford had a low shot from distance which hit the post and bounced clear.
On the stroke of half-time, Coll had a half-chance for Derry as he met Hammill’s free kick but he wasn’t able to keep his header on target.
Derry’s Figueira had the first opportunity of the second half as his 47th-minute shot was deflected wide but, perhaps because of word coming through from elsewhere that Shelbourne had dropped into the play-off spot, it was typical end-of-season fare.
That was until the 59th minute when City pressed as Derry looked to come out of defence and Gearóíd Morrissey’s interception on the edge of the area fell to O’Brien-Whitmarsh, who kept his composure to slot home his first league goal for the club.
There were opportunities for the lead to be doubled as O’Brien found Bargary on the left with a free kick and the winger’s curling shot whistled just past the post. Then, after former City captain Conor McCormack had drawn a save from McNulty, Bargary had an even better chance when Derry’s goalkeeper Peter Cherrie – another former City man – sent a clearance straight to him but he blazed his shot high and wide.
Derry responded positively, though. First, Hammill shot over with a free kick after he himself had been fouled 25 yards out and then the equaliser arrived in the 75th minute, with Hammill again involved. He had been intending to pick up Figueira at the back post with his cross from the left but, when Ronan Hurley tried to cut it out with a header, the ball fell perfectly for Akintunde to attack it and nod home from close range.
In the immediate aftermath, City had half a penalty shout as Bargary went down under an Eoin Toal challenge but the Derry defender was adjudged to have got the ball.
With four minutes left, Derry almost won it. Again, Hammill was the instigator as a good move built down the left and he pulled back for McCormack at the near post but his cushioned effort went narrowly wide.
Referee: Seán Grant (Wexford).