Gary Twigg might well finish this season as the division’s top scorer but he failed to leave any lasting impression against a City side that has seen root and branch upheaval in recent weeks with injury and enforced departures in recent weeks. Rovers’ best chance of the game fell his way on 70 minutes, but the Glaswegian striker appeared to be planted to the spot as he tried to arch Tadhg Purcell’s cutback goalward.
In a game played at a lively tempo throughout there was surprisingly little by way on goalmouth action at either end with Dan Connor and Barry Murphy rarely tested unduly. Gareth Cambridge and Faz Kuduzovic both came close with headed chances inside the opening ten minutes, with the Bosnian dragging a further effort wide from outside the area some 20 minutes in.
Both sides were guilty of squandering good positions in the opening half and appeared to lack conviction on entering the final third. Cambridge got it horribly wrong late in the half, glancing the ball some distance wide from an inviting Danny Murphy cross.
The fare improved after the break and Cork were unlucky not to break the deadlock inside the first minute. Kuduzovic managed to wriggle some space in a congested area but his shot blazed over Barry Murphy’s bar.
Following a collision between Danny Murphy and Shane Robinson on 54 minutes, a 20 man melee ensued. Once the respective captains got matters under control Robinson and Murphy both had their names taken.
The lively Billy Dennehy launched a daisy cutter at the Rovers goal midway through the half with Murphy grateful to smother the ball at the second chance with substitute Timmy Kiely bearing down. Twigg spurned a further effort at the other end, turning the ball wide from a deep delivery.
The clearest opening of the game fell Cork’s way seven minutes from the end. Kiely produced a wonderfully weighted through pass for Dennehy to run on to. Having sprung the visitors offside trap, the jet-heeled winger had the home support on their feet in anticipation. But Murphy was alert to spare his defender’s blushes blocking smartly as Dennehy looked to apply the finishing touch.
The result effectively sees Cork bow out of this season’s title race as the gap to leaders Bohemians stretches to 11 points. Rovers meanwhile will be justifiably pleased to have stretched their unbeaten run to 14 games, and go into this weekend’s FAI Cup break the best placed of the pack to deny Bohemians back-to-back titles.
Cork City:Connor; Murphy, Murray, Long, O’Halloran; Dennehy, Gamble, Lordan, O’Neill; Kuduzovic, Cambridge
Sub: Kiely for Cambridge (64)
Not Used: McNulty, Horgan, Duggan, O’Donnell
Booked: Murphy (54); Dennehy (72)
Shamrock Rovers:Murphy; Cahill, Sives, Maguire, Sullivan; O’Connor, Robinson, Rice, Bradley; Twigg, Purcell
Subs: Baker for O’Connor (62); Kavanagh for Bradley (81)
Not used: Duggan, Price, Johnston
Booked: Robinson (54); Kavanagh (85)