Sunday 17 December 2017

Foran's late equaliser not enough to prevent Rovers falling further off the pace

If Shamrock Rovers are to justify their pre-season favourites tag and reclaim the League of Ireland title, then they'd need to get into their stride soon.

With Sligo maintaining their 100pc start to the campaign, the Hoops have yet to leave second gear. Only five games have been played and already they trail last year's champions by eight points.

It should have been more. With four minutes of stoppage-time played, Derek Foran popped up with a last-gasp equaliser. And it was deserved. While Cork were excellent last night from a defensive perspective, Rovers had enough chances to get the draw.

Considering Cork had to withstand a last-quarter onslaught with just 10 men – following Darren Dennehy's 65th-minute dismissal for a foul on Steve Rice, the Leesiders achievement in holding on for so long was impressive.

The game, as a spectacle, was not, though. Instead, it took an age to come to life as both sides strangled the space in midfield by operating 4-3-3 formations, a problem compounded by neither defence showing much interest in abandoning their stations.

Little wonder then that half an hour passed before either 'keeper was forced to make a save – although Billy Dennehy should have made Mark McNulty work when set free by Mark Quigley.

Instead, Dennehy hesitated and John Dunleavy blocked the eventual shot. No Rovers defender, however, was on hand to block Colin Healy's 34th-minute drive, when the one-time Irish international got on the end of Adam Rundle's exceptional left-wing-cross to put the visitors ahead.

In response, Rovers immediately quit their conservative policy and pushed their full-backs forward. Yet, despite the change in tone, it was Cork who nearly made it 2-0, when Rundle struck a left-footed volley which just went wide of Barry Murphy's goal.

The second half was completely dominated by Rovers, who had a goal disallowed when Quigley fouled Mark McNulty, prior to Gary McCabe poking the ball home. Quigley and sub Ciaran Kilduff both came close with late shots before Foran saved the day.

Shamrock Rovers – Murphy; Sullivan, Foran, Oman, Powell; Chambers (Stewart 82); Finn, Robinson (Rice, h-t); McCabe, Quigley, Dennehy (Kilduff 59).

Cork City – McNulty; Dunleavy, K. Murray, Dennehy, Murphy; D. Horgan (Spillane 70), Healy, G. Morrissey, Duggan, Rundle (Turner 90); Kavanagh (Behan 70).

Ref – D Tomney (Dublin).

Irish Independent

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