Former Cork City manager John Caulfield congratulated the Rebels on winning the title, but the celebrations were delayed as Galway United came back from behind and beat City 2-1 at Eamonn Dessie Park.
Galloway suffered a dip in form at the wrong time and still had a very slim chance of catching City but they denied Colin Healey’s men the chance to celebrate promotion in the West.
With United possibly heading into the playoffs, this is a huge boost to their confidence, and the behavior of some Cork fans means this is being celebrated wildly in Galway, even with little prospect at stake.
Barry Coffee gave City the lead in the second half, but the match seemed to fade away, with United scoring twice in three minutes through Wilson Fuero and Charlie Leon.
On nights like these, United, who trail City by seven points with a game in hand, will lament their failure to beat Bray, Wexford or the Coppa in recent games. Cork must be fine but will wonder how they blow their lead here when it looks like they’re in command.
A large crowd from Cork landed on Terryland as the sun set in Galway, but although United’s title challenge seemed to be derailed, there was decent support on home soil.
Former City captain Conor McCormack missed the game due to the suspension. On a tight start there were few chances, but in-form Mickey Rowe’s shot had to be cleared from a corner kick in the 19th minute.
Cork’s first chance of noticing was when Aaron Bolger turned with his left foot after a beautiful pass by Sian Bargare. Conor Kearns saved comfortably.
Cork will wonder how they didn’t move forward in 26 minutes. Healy died in a corner kick very quickly, Ally Gilchrist’s header hit the crossbar and Jonas Hakkinen followed, arrowing to the ground and not bothering Kearns.
The game was now coming alive and Gilchrist created two stunning blocks to frustrate Stephen Walsh after Ronan Manning’s corner kick, after goalkeeper David Harrington volleyed the ball.
Manning is a good player and sprinted towards the top corner, Harrington read his intent at 39 minutes.
City hit the lead five minutes into the second half. Cairns played the ball to Bohemian loanee James Finnerty, who lost his foot and the ball was released to Kofi, whose shot veered inwards.
The match was then delayed by several minutes as Cork City fans rolled onto the field and flares were lit in the far section, with Garday intervening.
It looked as if Mark Scanlon of the Football Association was in conversation with referee Oliver Moran and there were fears of giving up the match but it continued after about six minutes of uncertainty.
Great play by former United striker Rory Keating saw off Sian Murphy in the 58th minute. He played in Kofi who in turn fed Healy and hit the crossbar with a powerful kick.
The double substitution by Caulfield proved to be an inspiration for Galloway. Bastien Heyere saw plenty of ball straight after his introduction but it was Wilson Fuero who proved the most important, scoring superbly into the net after Walsh’s header 20 minutes from the end of the match.
United were ahead after two minutes, Lyon deftly improvised to score a cross from Hurley, his back not touching the ground.
Caulfield was now fully energized on the sidelines, claiming that Healey had dunked in front of United’s dugout 15 minutes prior to the discussion.
Walsh’s superb connection put Waweru back in the 90th minute, and Harrington miles from his streak, Waweru missed a great opportunity. Did not matter.
Galway United: Cairns. Finnerti, Portela (Herry 65), Leon; Hemmings, O’Keeffe, Hurley; McCarthy, Walsh, Manning (and Oweru 65).
Cork City: Harrington. Hakkinen, Coleman, Gilchrist; Crowley, Bulger; Covey, Healy, Bargare (McGlade 89); Murphy (Breton 87), Keating.
Coupe Ramblers 1-3 Athlone Town
In the bunker battle, Athlone Town Scored a 3-1 away win over his struggling teammates Cobh Ramblers To open a three-point gap on their hosts.
The Ramblers scored a late penalty kick for striker Benon O’Brien Whitmarsh in the 87th minute, but it was a sober night for Coleman Park, who reached the bottom of the table with 14 points.
Thomas Ulloa and Aaron Connolly’s free kick secured the visitors a 2-0 lead in the first half before adding a third goal through Patrick Hickey an hour later.