Late goals add gloss as Cork cut gap
Cork City 3 Shamrock rvs 0
While Cork City were deserving winners at Turner's Cross last night, the final scoreline masked what threatened at times to be a frustrating night for the home side.
The upshot of this victory - following on from the 5-0 win over the same opposition at Tallaght last week in the FAI Cup - is that John Caulfield's side have now closed to within seven points of Premier Division leaders Dundalk with a game in hand, but the win was only secured when Greg Bolger's late penalty made it 2-0 before a Garry Buckley wonder-strike inflated the final advantage.
To give City their credit, 3-0 isn't flattering in terms of chances created, as Shamrock Rovers offered little attacking endeavour apart from a couple of half-chances of an equaliser before Bolger's goal.
When Seán Maguire opened the scoring inside seven minutes, the home faithful must have assumed that something similar to the cup rout lay in store. Kenny Browne's clearance wasn't dealt with by Rovers defender Seán Heaney, allowing Maguire to seize possession. As the defence retreated, he let off a low left-footed shot from inside the box, the ball going in off the post.
For most of the rest of the half, though, Barry Murphy in the away goal wasn't really tested. Maguire was denied by a fine Robert Cornwall block after Steven Beattie and Karl Sheppard had linked well, and there was a half-shout of a penalty when Heaney raised his hands in the area, but otherwise Rovers broke even, albeit without calling Mark McNulty into serious action.
James Doona, one of three additions to the side after the cup exit, had arguably the best chance but sent his shot straight at Mark McNulty after being set up by Aaron Dobbs.
Just before the break, Heaney made a great sliding tackle on Gearóid Morrissey in the area, timing it perfectly when he had to do so.
Early in the second half, City tried to engineer something from a set-piece but Maguire shot well over after Greg Bolger's low free-kick to him, and then, just after the hour, Sheppard was unlucky to have been just offside when he acrobatically sent the ball to the net from Kevin O'Connor's delivery.
At the other end, left-back Trevor Clarke's run and shot ended up going just wide, but City were creating far more of the chances. Sheppard tried to put Garry Buckley in but Heaney made a fine tackle, while Cornwall made a sliding block with his head when it looked like Maguire might turn in Sheppard's low cross.
The chances continued. Stephen Dooley, from a short O'Connor corner, came in along the line but Murphy stood up to his shot and then Buckley's effort went over from yet another corner.
Rovers subs Gary Shaw and Killian Brennan had equalising chances, but it was Bolger who looked to have had the final say, sending his spot-kick to the top-left corner after Dooley was fouled by Shane Hanney.
There was still time, though, for Buckley to pile on the Rovers agony with a wonderful long-range effort after O'Connor laid the ball off to him.