Philip Morrissey reports from Turner’s Cross
The SSE Airtricity League title seems destined for Tallaght for the first time since 2011 as a result of this 3-0 win for the Hoops over Cork City. Two first half goals from Aaron Greene along with a late Neil Farrugia strike moved Rovers eight points clear with seven game remaining.
For the home side, it was yet another poor display. Two down at half-time, they were unable to recover sufficiently to make a game of it. They remain embroiled in the relegation area with games running out.
Both sides had results go their way last night. Bohemians were surprisingly beaten 2-0 at home by Waterford, while Shelbourne lost 3-2 away to Dundalk. It meant an opportunity for the home side to make ground on those above them. It was a bigger advantage for Shamrock Rovers as they aimed to win their first league title the Michael O’Neill era.
For City, defensive concerns reared their heads as Alan Bennett joined the injury list which includes the likes of Uniss Kargbo, Joseph Olowu and Josh Honohan. Jake O’ Brien came into the side to replace Bennett and partner Rob Slevin.
Connor Simpson was entrusted ahead of Scott Fenwick to lead the line with support from Deshane Dalling and Dylan McGlade. Alec Byrne also came into the side. The away side remained at unchanged from last week’s 1-0 win ovrer Bohs.
Despite an opening period where both teams were guilty of misplaced possession and giving the ball up, it was the away side who seemed to have the greater intent. Their creative players begun to put their stamp on proceedings without really making too many chances.
City’s opportunites were somewhat limited at this point. Dalling helped his backline with a superb intercept from Jack Byrne to relieve the pressure but lacked the requisite support. He was also found by a good hold and give by Simpson. He was crowded out by the Rovers defence and the chance came to nothing. His runs in midfield also led to a stern talking to for Byrne after he had pulled him back.
The pressure told eventually. Just after the quarter hour Rovers won a throw in by the corner flag. It was taken quickly to Byrne. He had plenty of time to pick out his cross back into the area. Both Burke and Greene were lurking, but it was the latter who glanced it past McNulty.
For all that City tried to respond, it was Rovers who looked more likely to extend their advantage. The likes of Byrne, Ronan Finn and the overlapping Danny Lafferty were cutting City asunder at times. Too much space was afforded to Rovers creative players as the home side tried desperately to plug the leaks occurring in midfield and defence.
They were able to double-team both City fullbacks to get crosses into the danger area. Lafferty was left cursing his luck as his effort was tipped onto the crossbar by McNulty after Greene had laid it off to him.
A booking for Alec Byrne for a late challenge on Liam Scales almost resulted in a second. Another great through-ball by Lafferty found Burke but he was unable to apply the finishing touch. A last-ditch challenge by Rob Slevin also denied him moments later. At the other end City finally drew a save out of Alan Mannus. He held on to a shot from Dylan McGlade after his initial free hit the wall.
Just when Neale Fenn started making plans for half-time, Rovers struck once more. Again, it was far too straight forward. They worked it out to the right-hand side through Finn. Lafferty was available to float in a cross which Greene unmarked nodded his second. Fenn would have been livid at the amount of room given to both.
City introduced both Scott Fenwick and Ronan Hurley at half-time in place of McGlade and Alec Byrne. The former did manage to have a half-chance from a Dalling pass but it was Rovers who continued to look the more threatening. The game became scrappier and both Cian Coleman and Burke went into the referee’s book after squaring up to one another. The Rovers attacker had been unhappy with a firm challenge on him.
Burke’s sense of annoyance was heightened in a remarkable sequence of attacks. His cross flashed across the area which needed only a touch from Greene for his hat-trick. The striker was unable to make it count on this occasion. He then managed to strike both posts in succession. One in a goal-mouth scramble and the other with a well-paced low drive into the bottom corner. Just not his day seemingly. Fenwick had a scuffed chance at the other end, but it was easy for Mannus to gather it.
Although City were able to stem the flow of goals, sustained pressure of their own was proving more difficult.
It was left to Neil Farrugia to seal it approaching the last minute. He gained possession on the left flank before being faced by Henry Ochieng. The substitute twisted and turned his way past before slotting past McNulty into the bottom corner. Joy for Rovers as the final whistle who now are overwhelming favourites to seal the deal in the next few games.
City return to action with another massive game with Dundalk at the Cross, while Rovers have the glamour of Zlatan and his AC Milan teammates in the Europa League qualifiers.
Cork City: Mark McNulty, Alec Byrne (Ronan Hurley 46), Rob Slevin, Jake O’ Brien, Kevin O’ Connor, Cian Coleman, Henry Ochieng, Gearoid Morrissey, Dylan McGlade (Scott Fenwick 46), Deshane Dalling, Connor Simpson (Roberto Dinanga 71).
Subs not used: Liam Bossin (gk), Dáire O’ Connor, Cory Galvin, Dale Holland.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Liam Scales (Joey O’ Brien 59), Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace; Ronan Finn,), Aaron McEneff, , Gary O’ Neill (Dylan Watts 65), Danny Lafferty (Rhys Marshall 77); Jack Byrne, Aaron Greene (Neil Farrugia 77), Graham Burke.
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Dean Williams, Thomas Oluwa.
Referee: Ray Matthews
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Danny Lafferty (Shamrock Rovers)