THE manner in which they slumped after springing out of the blocks last year has made them pragmatic in Inchicore, but there's something ominous about the frequency with which St Patrick's Athletic continue to rack up the victories.
Sure, the quality of their performances has varied thus far and this was a particularly schizophrenic encounter, with 10-man Cork coming from two goals down to level before Keith Fahey's free kick secured all three points for the hosts in a frenetic finale.
Cork arrived in town looking to narrow the eight-point gap between themselves and their hosts at the top of the table. In that context, conceding a sloppy goal within 75 seconds was a criminally bad start, when Fahey's free-kick was headed past Mick Devine by Gary O'Neill with the Leesiders' defence missing in action.
After that, it took the visitors time to settle into a rhythm but when they did it made for entertaining fare as both sides tried to get the passes flowing. The Saints have been grinding out wins in difficult circumstances recently and suffered another defensive injury when Damien Lynch left the fray before the half-hour, youngster Noel Haverty brought into an already patched up back four.
Cork began to enjoy good spells of possession and could have equalised twice before the interval with Pat Sullivan's missile smacking off the crossbar and George O'Callaghan's free-kick clawed away by Barry Ryan. All the same, the hosts were always dangerous with the mercurial Mark Quigley unable to convert three separate opportunities to double their advantage in that period.
The lesson for them was that the more established Cork defence was just as capable of leaving gaps as their makeshift counterparts and after one near miss when Cillian Lordan hacked an O'Neill strike off the line after a rapid break, the Saints got their second goal with 64 minutes on the clock.
It was a cleverly executed breakthrough, with an ingenious Gary Dempsey pass releasing Fahey, who bundled the ball past Devine.
That appeared to be that for Cork and with Danny Murphy sent off shortly afterwards the remainder of the match looked set to be a formality. But the drama was only just beginning.
John O'Flynn came off the bench to reduce the deficit with 14 minutes remaining and, after profligacy at both ends, he climbed above Ryan to glance home his second header of the night to restore parity with four minutes to go after a hopeful Lordan punt forward.
The Richmond faithful were shell-shocked but their team weren't and from the restart Alan Kirby's surging run was ended just outside the area by Colin Healy. There were forlorn screams for a penalty but it didn't matter as Fahey's right foot curler evaded Devine's grasp at the near post to cap a thrilling, if somewhat surreal, conclusion.
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