Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers did what they needed to do in the FAI Cup against Cork City on Monday evening winning 2-1 thanks to two goals from Danny Lafferty, either side of Gearoid Morrisey’s equaliser.
The win takes them into November’s quarter-finals and extended Rovers’ unbeaten run to 17 games – and they haven’t lost a game at home since June 2019.
The talk in Tallaght ahead of kick off for those who were in attendance for this behind-closed-doors cup tie was about the Europa League draw and the visit of AC Milan to the venue in mid-September.
The focus on the pitch, however, was very much on Cork City as the Hoops are looking to retain the cup that they won last November after a 32 year wait.
Ahead of the game Head Coach Stephen Bradley had spoken about it being “our trophy and we don’t want to give it up”.
His side had drawn their last three games – two scoreless draws in the league and the 2-2 draw after extra-time against Ilves in the Europa League – so they were also looking to get back to winning ways against the bottom side in the league and a team they had beaten 6-0 earlier in the season.
Unlike the drama on Thursday night in the Europa League, it was a very quiet game for Rovers goalkeeper Alan Mannus.
Neale Fenn deployed his team in a 4-3-3 formation but they didn’t threaten the Hoops goal at all in the opening 45 and not much more in the second half.
His opposite number, Liam Bossin, was the busier ‘keeper in the first half and it was his error that handed the Hoops the opener.
He spilled Graham Burke’s shot seven minutes from the break with Lafferty on hand to side foot home from inside the six yard box for his first goal for Rovers.
Lafferty had a chance to get on the scoresheet after only three minutes but he sliced a great opportunity when Burke played the ball to the wing back on the left edge of the box.
Bossin was called into action ten minutes later, getting his body behind Dylan Watts’ driven effort.
Burke also tried his luck from distance – the Ireland international scored five goals in the league game between the sides earlier in the season.
City’s central striker Connor Simpson took on Roberto Lopes when he could, but between the Rovers back three they had him well marshalled.
The Hoops earned five first half corners and they mixed a couple of them up with Jack Byrne taking them short.
The closest they came to scoring from one of those set pieces was when Lee Grace – returning to the team following his European suspension – got his head on a Byrne centre. He powered the ball down but Dean Williams couldn’t swivel around to finish.
Fenn made two switches at the back at the break, withdrawing Bossin and bringing on Mark McNulty with Charlie Fleming replaced by Dale Holland.
McNulty, within a minute of the restart, saved his team pushing Dean Williams’ effort over the bar.
Captain Gearoid Morrissey equalised with City’s first real effort of the game on 50 minutes – he swept the ball home into the corner after an excellent run from deep by Dylan McGlade.
McNulty did well to bat out a Burke free kick just before the hour mark, which Burke earned when Rob Slevin bundled him over.
It was an opportunistic effort from wide right but Lopes couldn’t capitalise when the ball came back out to him.
The Hoops retook the lead on 68 minutes with an excellent passing move from the back. Dean Williams held up Marshall’s ball over the top and he fed Byrne who calmly side footed the ball into Lafferty’s path.
He drilled a left foot effort from just inside the area into the back of the net, leaving McNulty watching the ball go by him.
It was a landmark goal for the Hoops as it was the 500th competitive goal scored by Rovers in Tallaght Stadium
The Hoops did enough to see out the game, with their only difficulty coming when substitute Scott Fenwick got his head on a back post header, but he couldn’t direct the ball on target.
The next time the Hoops are in knock out cup action it will be against AC Milan in mid-September but before that the league will be their priority.
That starts this weekend with the small matter of a Dublin Derby against Bohemians in Tallaght. The reward for the winner will be ending Saturday evening top of the table on Saturday.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien (Ronan Finn 74), Roberto Lopes ©, Lee Grace; Rhys Marshall, Gary O’Neill (Aaron McEneff 74), Jack Byrne, Dylan Watts, Daniel Lafferty; Graham Burke (Brandon Kavanagh 89); Dean Williams (Aaron Greene 74).
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Max Murphy, Thomas Oluwa.
Booked: Graham Burke (42), Gary O’Neill (48), Dylan Watts (78).
Cork City: Liam Bossin (Mark McNulty 46); Charlie Fleming (Dale Holland 46), Jake O’Brien, Kevin O’Connor, Rob Slevin; Cian Coleman Gearóid Morrissey ©, Henry Ochieng; Dylan McGlade (Ricardo Dinanga 88), Connor Simpson (Scott Fenwick 75), Deshane Dalling (Daire O’Connor 87).
Subs not used: Ronan Hurley, Alan Bennett.
Booked: Charlie Fleming (20), Connor Simpson (62), Henry Ochieng (83).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Graham Burke (Shamrock Rovers).