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Bradley beams after Rovers end Cork drought to open up commanding lead

Last night’s impressive victory at Turner’s Cross saw Shamrock Rovers move 10 points clear at the top.

IT HAD BEEN a long time — almost six years, to be somewhat precise — since Shamrock Rovers players emerged from the dressing rooms at Turner’s Cross with smiles on their faces after a game against Cork City.

In the aftermath of last night’s 3-1 victory, the heavy rain certainly wasn’t going to dampen the spirits of the Rovers squad as they savoured a rare win on Leeside that extended their lead at the top of the Premier Division table to 10 points.

Stephen Bradley celebrates after the game Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley celebrates after last night's 3-1 win against Cork City. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We’re obviously happy with that,” manager Stephen Bradley told The42 after watching his players seal the club’s first away win over Cork City since June 2013.

“No team wins at Turner’s Cross often so to do it is very pleasing. What I’m even more happy with is how we imposed our game on Cork. That’s what we came down here with the intention of doing and I felt we did that.”

A Rovers side who retained possession with relative ease were 2-0 ahead after 36 minutes thanks to goals from Sean Kavanagh and Aaron McEneff.

Relying mostly on a hit-and-hope approach, Cork City were within touching distance at half-time after Dan Casey scored a 41st-minute header.

With McEneff, Greg Bolger, Ronan Finn and Jack Byrne linking up well in midfield, the visitors were dominant in the second half. A marvellous long-range strike from McEneff just after the hour mark capped a well-deserved victory.

The Hoops have now won each of their last six Premier Division games, but this one was a statement — even if their manager was reluctant to agree with that assessment.

“That’s for the likes of you in the media and the rest of the league to decide,” he said. “It’s not for me to say that. For me, it was about imposing our style and not changing what we’ve been really good at. We wanted to move the ball well in the hope that we’d get a result, and we did.”

Dundalk’s loss at St Patrick’s Athletic allowed Rovers to increase their lead to double figures. The champions have two games in hand, but the club from Tallaght find themselves in a commanding position nevertheless ahead of Waterford’s visit next Friday.

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Dan Casey and Aaron McEneff Aaron McEneff gets away from Dan Casey before scoring the first of his two goals. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We won’t be coming in on Monday morning and looking at the league table,” said Bradley. “We’ll be talking about how we can prepare to beat Waterford. It’s as simple as that. We have a job to do next week so we need to make sure we’re ready for that.”

Having finished in third place in each of Bradley’s two full seasons in charge so far, Rovers now look set to mount a legitimate challenge for a title they last won in 2011.

“We knew when we came into this that it was going to take time because we needed to change 18 players,” said the former league-winning Rovers midfielder, who succeeded Pat Fenlon as boss.

“No matter who you are, you can’t do that overnight and expect it to be right. We always felt it would take time, the club knew that, and we’re doing okay.”

The sizeable contingent of Shamrock Rovers supporters chanted Bradley’s name last night at Turner’s Cross, a welcome change for a man who has had to take the rough with the smooth during his reign.

“That’s this club,” he said. “That’s Shamrock Rovers. It’s a big club. The fans expect to win every game. It doesn’t matter whether you’re home or away, in Europe or in the league. I understand that. I’ve played here. I’ve won a league here. I get that.

“When things aren’t going well, you have to take the grief and the slack. When it’s going well, you take the plaudits.”

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Paul Dollery

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