Cork City narrowed the gap to seven points on league leaders Dundalk, and have a game still in hand, as they defeated Shamrock Rovers 3-0 in what was actually a tight Friday night encounter in Turner’s Cross. The televised clash brought 2,475 supporters to the venue including Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane who was one of those in attendance.
Sean Maguire’s early first half strike was enough to give the rebel army all three points. The Kilkenny native has now found the target seven times in his last four matches. The result was put beyond doubt on 89 minutes when Greg Bolger fired home from the spot, with Gary Buckley adding one further with a goal from distance on two minutes into injury time.
The Leesiders were unchanged from the side that defeated the Hoops 5-0 in Tallaght Stadium last Friday night while for the visitors they made three changes in the hope of reversing the score line from the Cup fixture.
Shane Hanney, James Doona and Dean Clarke all came into the starting XI in place of the suspended duo Sean Boyd and Patrick Clegg, along with Gary McCabe who missed the game through illness.
The opening exchanges were tighter than last week owing to Stephhen Bradley changing his formation from a 3-5-2 to a more defensive 4-2-3-1 system.
But like last week, Maguire was the man to break the deadlock on seven minutes. He seized on Sean Heaney’s defensive error, following Kenny Browne’s long ball out of defence, to dribble around the Rovers rear guard to fire low into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
The visitors had a half chance from 17-year-old Aaron Dobbs shortly after but outside of that there little in the way of goalmouth action at either side.
Yet City pressed for the second goal and nearly had one just after the half hour mark. Steven Beattie attacking from deep found Karl Sheppard who crossed on the turn to Maguire who could only shoot straight at Barry Murphy. The rest of the half saw the ball go from end to end without much in the way of action.
The second half restarted with Cork City goalkeeping coach Phil Harrington and Shamrock Rovers coach Glenn Cronin watching proceedings from the stands after a difference of opinion in the tunnel area at the break.
Sheppard stung the hands of Murphy on 52 minutes as the home side looked to extend their lead. Rovers had a few free kicks from threatening areas but nothing looked to trouble Mark McNulty majorly.
The home side thought they had doubled the lead on 62 minutes when Sheppard fired Bolger’s free kick into the net only for it to be ruled offside.
Shamrock Rovers introduced Killian Brennan into the game as they looked for an equaliser and had two chances in as many minutes with both Dean and Trevor Clarke firing over and wide respectively.
Yet it was former Rovers player Sheppard who continued to pepper the opposition goal with chances, firing narrowly over on 70 minutes from inside the box. While Rob Cornwall’s diving block on 75 minutes was all that stopped Maguire getting a second goal from close range.
Murphy again saved Rovers a minute later from Stephen Dooley inside the box, as the home side were trying everything to extend the lead.
On 82 minutes Gary Shaw nearly fulfilled the role of super-sub when he connected with a Heaney cross only for McNulty to save from close range. Brennan was next to try his luck with a chip that sailed over the bar with McNulty back peddling at a rate of knots.
Two minutes from time Dooley won a penalty for City after Hanney had felled Dooley in the box. Up stepped Bolger to blast to the net to guarantee City all three points.
Yet there was still more goals to come with Gary Buckley firing home from 20 yards on 92 minutes to end the night on a high on Leeside.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Steven Beattie, Kenny Browne, Alan Bennett, Kevin O’Connor; Greg Bolger, Gearóid Morrissey; Karl Sheppard (Danny Morrissey 83), Gary Buckley, Stephen Dooley (Chiedozie Ogbene 92); Sean Maguire (Mark O’Sullivan 84).
Subs not used: Matthew Connor, Colin Healy, Gavan Holohan, Michael McSweeney.
Yellow Cards: Browne (60)
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Shane Hanney, Rob Cornwall, Sean Heaney, Trevor Clarke; David Webster, Stephen McPhail; Simon Madden (Gary Shaw 78), James Doona (Killian Brennan 65), Dean Clarke; Aaron Dobbs,
Subs not used: Michael Quinn, Conor Gleeson, Jamie Aherne, Aaron Bolger.
Yellow Cards: Dobbs (35), Trevor Clarke (48)
Referee: David McKeon
Extratime.ie Man of the match: Sean Maguire (Cork City)