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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019

Shamrock Rovers overcome Cork to keep pace with leaders Dundalk

Joey O’Brien and Roberto Lopes got the goals for the Hoops.

Shamrock Rovers' Joey O'Brien celebrates scoring a goal with Greg Bolger.
Shamrock Rovers' Joey O'Brien celebrates scoring a goal with Greg Bolger.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Updated at 23.55

Shamrock Rovers 2

Cork City 0

Paul Fennessy reports from Tallaght Stadium

GOALS FROM JOEY O’Brien and Roberto Lopes saw Shamrock Rovers earn a deserved victory against Cork City in the SSE Airtriciy League Premier Division tonight.

The result meant Stephen Bradley’s side kept pace with leaders Dundalk, who earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory at home to St Patrick’s Athletic this evening.

Cork had frustrated their opponents in the opening 45 chances, with clear-cut chances few and far between, but the hosts’ class told after the break, as their superiority was finally reflected on the scoreboard 

Shamrock Rovers came into the game second in the table only on goal difference behind leaders Dundalk.

Cork City, meanwhile, had a disappointing start to the season that cost manager John Caulfield his job, but have shown signs of improvement since interim boss John Cotter took over – Monday’s victory over UCD was their third win in four games.

It was the second time the sides have met this season, with Rovers earning a 3-1 victory at Turner’s Cross previously.

Gearoid Morrissey and Karl Sheppard both started for the hosts having been doubtful ahead of the game, while Dan Casey and Cian Murphy were unavailable for Cork. In addition, Colm Horgan came in for Gary Boylan, while Garry Comerford dropped to the bench having started the UCD game, with the returning Morrissey taking his place. Meanwhile, despite notching the winner on his first-team debut from the bench on Monday, there was no place in the 18 for teenager Cian Bargery.

For the hosts, Sean Kavanagh, Sam Bone and Aaron McEneff missed out through injury in a Rovers side unchanged from Monday’s win over Finn Harps.

A cagey opening 10 minutes threatened to boil over, with both Gary Buckley and Ronan Finn booked for late challenges.

The game livened up on 11 minutes. An intelligent Jack Byrne cross-field pass found Trevor Clarke, and Mark McNulty had to parry the full-back’s powerful delivery away to safety. Moments later, Dan Carr narrowly failed to connect with a dangerous Ronan Finn cross, as Rovers threatened again.

Clarke was again prominent shortly thereafter, having been found from a Greg Bolger cross-field pass. The ex-Middlesbrough youngster appeared to overhit a cross, but McNulty was ultimately relieved to see the ball only hit the crossbar and deflect away harmlessly.

The game hit a lull subsequently, with neither side looking particularly threatening. Rovers almost played themselves into trouble on 26 minutes though. A high Cork press prevented them from playing out from the back, with Roberto Lopes ultimately being forced to boot the ball out of play.

Eight minutes before half-time, Rovers nearly found a breakthrough. Byrne’s inswinging free kick was nodded on by Lopes, but the defender’s header went the wrong side of McNulty’s post.

For the most part though, the half was characterised by a lack of goalmouth action. Cork offered little in attack, with former Rovers player Sheppard, who had managed just one goal in his previous 15 matches, looking particularly isolated up front.

The hosts were using their full-backs well, with the likes of Byrne, Finn and Bolger frequently picking out Clarke and O’Brien with well-executed cross-field passes, but they could not find that decisive final ball to unlock a stubborn defence.

Alan Mannus with Colm Horgan Shamrock Rovers' Alan Mannus with Colm Horgan of Cork City. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The scrappy second half continued along a similar theme to the first, with Conor McCormack picking up the game’s fifth yellow card, after recklessly hauling down Byrne.

Tallaght subsequently came alive on 51 minutes. Finn found space down the left, and his cross eluded a number of players before finding its way to O’Brien. The 33-year-old former Bolton and West Ham player kept his cool and found the far corner of the net with a clinical finish.

Eight minutes later, Rovers doubled their advantage. A Jack Byrne corner found Lopes at the far post, and the unmarked defender headed powerfully into the net for his third goal of the season.

Cork continued to be hamstrung by a lack of creativity and forward threat, and had little answer to their opponents’ second-half improvement. Pierce Phillips and Graham Cummins were introduced, but they struggled to make the required impact.

The visitors did threaten with just over 10 minutes remaining. Sheppard beat Lopes down the right, but his drilled cross missed everyone.

A previously perfect night for Rovers was marred firstly by an injury to Carr, who walked off gingerly as he was replaced by Ethan Boyle, though Bradley confirmed afterwards that the forward would be okay.

The news that Dundalk had scored a late winner against St Pat’s to stay at the top of the table also spoiled the hosts’ party somewhat.

And with the game effectively over, Cork took the opportunity to hand a senior debut to Bgineon O’Brien-Whitmarsh. Rovers also blooded a promising youngster, with 19-year-old attacker Dean Dillon coming on for the final five minutes.

In the dying minutes, Clarke broke with speed on the counter and fired just over, but it mattered little, as Rovers claimed another precious three points.

Shamrock Rovers: 1. Alan Mannus 4. Roberto Lopes 5. Lee Grace 6. Greg Bolger 7. Dylan Watts (Kavanagh 81) 8. Ronan Finn 9. Dan Carr (Boyle 75) 20. Trevor Clarke 22. Aaron Greene (Dillon 85) 28. Joey O’Brien 29. Jack Byrne.

Subs: 25. Leon Pohls 2. Ethan Boyle 17. Joel Coustrain 24. Dean Dillon 26. Thomas Oluwa 27. Brandon Kavanagh 34. Orhan Vojic.

Cork City: 1. Mark McNulty 2. Colm Horgan 4. Sean McLoughlin 6. Gearoid Morrissey (Phillips 67) 8. Conor McCormack 10. Garry Buckley (O’Brien-Whitmarsh 82)  11. Daire O’Connor (Cummins 70) 19. Karl Sheppard 21. Conor McCarthy 22. James Tilley 25. Kevin O’Connor.

Subs: 23. Tadhg Ryan 3. Alan Bennett 20. Shane Griffin 27. Pierce Phillips 29. Bgineon O’Brien-Whitmarsh 32. Garry Comerford 9. Graham Cummins.

Referee: Rob Harvey

Attendance: 3,112

Gavan Casey is joined by Ryan Bailey and Andy Dunne to look ahead to Saturday’s Pro14 final, look at whether Joey Carbery’s move has paid off and Jack Conan talks about how his body is holding up.:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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