Cork City will be the happier team after drawing 1-1 with Shamrock Rovers in the first leg of the Setanta Sports Cup semi-final at Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The Leesiders will take an important away goal with them back to Turner's Cross for next Monday’s second leg. The only goals of the game came in a two minute period prior to half time when Daryl Kavanagh cancelled out the opener for Rovers scored by City full back Danny Murphy who put the ball through his own net.
In the first half, the pace of the game was often pedestrian and it took a long time for the game to come to life. Both sides went with a traditional 4-4-2 line up. With Setanta Sports Cup record goalscorer Denis Behan on the bench, Daryl Kavanagh played up front just off Danny Furlong for the Leesiders while Mark Quigley was in a similar position for the Hoops. It was a fluid formation for the home team with Sean O’Connor and Danny Ledwith switching wings throughout the game.
And it was Ledwith who went very close to getting the opening goal after 11 minutes. He picked up a weak Mark McNulty goal kick on the edge of the centre circle. He controlled the ball beautifully and his quick shot had McNulty scrambling back towards his own goal. However unfortunately for the Hoops the ball just dropped over the bar onto the roof of the net much to the City goalkeeper’s relief.
The visitors did force a number of first half corners but the deliveries would not have made City boss Tommy Dunne happy. Rovers defender Derek Foran needed to be alert to the danger of Daryl Horgan on 20 minutes to put the ball behind for a corner where the additional assistant referee was patrolling. The crowd in Tallaght were watching a game with the additional goal line officials for the first time since Tottenham Hotspur came to Dublin for their Europa League match against Rovers in late 2011.
It was just short of the half hour mark before Cork had their first shot on the goal but Horgan’s effort did not trouble Barry Murphy in the Rovers goal as it sailed well wide of the target. Murphy had very little to do throughout the game with his opposite number one much the busier. Both Sean O’Connor and James Chambers had chances for Rovers in the first half but Mark McNulty was well positioned to gather both times.
The opening goal of the game came seven minutes before the break. City’s Neal Horgan fouled Mark Quigley in a dangerous position at the edge of the Cork box. Chambers and Quigley stood over the free. Chambers had scored from a similar scenario in Rovers’ last game but he left it to Quigley to take. The striker’s shot was heading goalwards but it was Danny Murphy’s decisive deflection that took the ball by McNulty to put Rovers into the lead.
That 1-0 advantage lasted just two minutes as Daryl Kavanagh’s fine right footed strike from outside the area flew past the despairing dive of Barry Murphy into the top right hand corner of the Rovers goal for the equaliser.
Three minutes into the second half it was Rovers winger Sean O’Connor who stung McNulty’s gloves with a shot from outside the area. At the opposite end when Chambers pulled down the lively Daryl Horgan on 56 minutes, it allowed City captain Colin Healy float a free kick into the box. Both Darren Dennehy and Ken Oman went for the ball with Oman’s touch taking the ball just over the crossbar for a corner.
A minute later Rovers patient passing in midfield was nearly rewarded. Ronan Finn played the ball into Quigley with his back to goal. Quigley’s flick fell towards Sean O’Connor facing the City goal but this time Danny Murphy’s touch took the ball wide of the City goal to prevent O’Connor getting a shot away for Rovers.
Mid-way through the second half the Hoops began to put concerted pressure on the visitors. Rovers substitute Karl Sheppard’s shot from 25 yards was on target but McNulty gathered handily before Derek Foran stepped out nicely from defence to take the ball up the centre of the pitch. Beating one man, he stepped inside another but his shot was dragged well wide of the goal.
Rovers went ever so close in injury time to getting the winner as substitute Karl Sheppard’s drilled centre across goal was almost reached by James Chambers. Rovers continue on a run of unbeaten games in all competitions with it 13 games since their last defeat. Trevor Croly will feel that this was another win that got away from his team.
In last season’s semi-final first leg Rovers trailed 3-0 after the first leg played in Tallaght Stadium against Derry City but they fell just short of taking the second leg to extra time having won in the Brandywell 2-0. They will take heart from that result last year as the face a league trip to the Bogside on Friday before the return leg against Cork City next week. For the Leesiders, it is 15 games unbeaten in this cross-border competition and they have the slight advantage going into next week’s second leg.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Pat Sullivan, Ken Oman (Stephen Rice 68), Derek Foran, Conor Powell; Sean O'Connor (Gary McCabe 75), Ronan Finn, James Chambers, Danny Ledwith; Mark Quigley (Karl Sheppard 62), Ciaran Kilduff.
Subs not used: Richard Brush (GK), Shane Robinson, Billy Dennehy, Conor McCormack,
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Neal Horgan, Darren Dennehy, Garry Buckley, Danny Murphy; Ian Turner, John Dunleavy, Colin Healy, Daryl Horgan (Adam Rundle 75) ; Danny Furlong (Danny Morrissey 72), Daryl Kavanagh (Denis Behan 90).
Subs not used: Kevin Burns, Kalen Spillane, Stephen Kenny, John Kavanagh.
Bookings: Colin Healy (81).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Attendance: 1,250 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Daryl Kavanagh (Cork City).