Patrick O’ Connor reports from Turners Cross
Shelbourne tightened their grip on the First Division title with a convincing 2-0 win over Cork City in Turners Cross on Friday night.
The differences between the team at the top of the table and one in a mid-table position was evident throughout the match.
Shelbourne are a very mature, physically strong, experienced side with a strong bench while City are a light, youthful side with a lot of inexperienced players and on the evidence of this match are still a work in progress.
Shels were able to name an unchanged side from their previous outing, while City had only one change from their last match but were very compromised in central defence due to a combination of injuries and suspensions.
Without the services of Cian Coleman, Gordon Walker, Gearoid Morrissey, Rob Slevin, George Heaven and Jonas Hakkinen, manager Colin Healy was forced to construct a makeshift central defence of Alec Byrne and Darragh Crowley.
Ian Morris’ side identified the centre of Cork’s defence as an area to exploit and they did just that in the 15th minute for the opening score of the match.
A deep cross from the left touch line by Yassine El-Neyah was headed back across the box by Shane Farrell to the unmarked Ryan Brennan who had loads of time to control the ball and stab it past Mark McNulty.
City displayed a nervousness during this opening period of the game, perhaps unnerved by the big build up to the game and the presence of over 2,000 fans, but they did settle down after the goal and took the game to Shels for the remainder of the first half.
Barry Coffey was influential in midfield for City while Cian Murphy and Cian Bargary showed their blistering pace up front whenever they got service from midfield.
One of City’s better chances of the first half was when Coffey played a good ball in behind Kameron Ledwidge for Bargary to run onto, but while he controlled the pass, he then overran the ball and took it over the end line.
The game became scrappy before half time while City tried unsuccessfully to mount a few attacks and Shels were content with their lead and relied on a few breakaway attacks through El-Neyah and Michael O’Connor.
City suffered a sucker punch early in the second half when a ball into the centre of defence was not dealt with and one of their defenders was forced to commit a foul while trying to prevent O’Connor from scoring. Referee Gavin Colfer had no doubts that it was a penalty, and Ryan Brennan dispatched it clinically for his 15th goal of the season.
Shels were very content with their two-goal cushion and for the final 30 mins of the match were able to snuff out any of City’s attacks with relative ease.
Shelbourne now have a First Division title and automatic promotion back to the Premier League to look forward to, all going well, while Cork will probably have to make do with a mid-table finish to the season and continue to build for the 2022 season.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Dale Holland (Sean Kennedy, 80), Ronan Hurley, Alec Byrne, Darragh Crowley, Barry Coffey, Dylan McGlade, Aaron Bolger, Cian Murphy, Cian Bargary.
Subs not used: David Harrington (gk); Paul Hunt (gk); Cathal Heffernan, Issa Kargbo, Luke Desmond, Jamie Wynne, Zach Dunne, Beineon O’Brien-Whitmarsh.
Booked: Alec Byrne (11), Darragh Crowley (90)
Shelbourne: Brendan Clarke; Kameron Ledwidge (Brian McManus,73), Ally Gilchrist, Luke Byrne (c), John Ross Wilson; Kevin O’ Connor, George Poynton, Shane Farrell. Michael O'Connor (Eric Molloy, 87), Ryan Brennan (Yoyo Mahdy, 87), Yassine En-Neyah (Dayle Rooney, 83),
Subs not used: Colm Cox (gk); Maxim Kouogun, Michael Barker. Gavin Molloy, Stanley Anaebonam.
Referee: Gavin Colfer
Extratime.com Player of the Match: Ryan Brennan (Shelbourne)