St. Patrick's Athletic goalkeeper Barry Ryan was the star of the show at Turner's Cross as he defied Cork City on a night when the reigning eircom League champions slipped further out of contention for this season's title. Cork now face a huge task if they are to get back into the title race.
Ryan stood between Cork and a winning goal repeatedly as the outstanding Neale Fenn succeeded in orchestrating a bright Cork attacking performance from centre-forward.
Four times he was the last barrier to a Cork win and each time he was confronted by Ireland's U21 international Roy O'Donovan.
The goalkeeper won that particular duel handsomely as twice he succeeded in turning away O'Donovan's finishing efforts and while the Cork striker succeeded in getting the ball past his big frame on the other two occasions, one of the shots came back off the butt of an upright and the other bounced harmlessly wide.
This last opportunity was the most exasperating of all for the Cork fans in an attendance of 2,500. O'Donovan charged clear from the right wing onto a superb through ball from substitute Billy Woods but with Ryan racing wildly off his goal-line and the defence split wide open, O'Donovan missed the target.
This scoring opportunity came two minutes into added time and by then there was a note of desperation in Cork's play. They had been neat and constructive in the opening half when Joe Gamble maintained a smooth supply from midfield and Neale Fenn sparkled at centre-forward but as the minutes ticked down and a dogged St. Pat's refused to yield, so Cork began to play with more passion than precision.
For their part, St. Pat's seldom showed as an attacking force. Mark Rooney penetrated and turned a shot across the penalty area in the 27th minute and it needed only a touch to turn it into the net, but there was nobody in support. St. Pat's attacks were few and far between as they were fully occupied in trying to contain Cork.
Cork's failure to take advantage of their scoring opportunities compromised their progress all season as their return of 16 goals from 17 eircom League matches showed and this difficulty arose again to ensure that, for a fourth consecutive time, they had to be content with a drawn match.
It was a night when St. Pat's showed their battling qualities and manager Johnny McDonnell could take encouragement as they came back after last week's loss to Waterford to pick up a precious point and, in the process, deal a serious blow to Cork's title prospects.