Cork come from behind to ruthlessly dispatch Shamrock Rovers
Cork City 4 Shamrock Rovers 1
FOR the second time in the space of a week, Cork City came from behind to deliver a precious victory. That’s the form of champions.
Granted, the Leesiders were given a helping hand here with a rash David McAllister challenge ensuring that Shamrock Rovers played the second half with ten men – their fifth dismissal of the campaign – but John Caulfield’s charges still had a job to do in front of their own fans.
They secured a 15th win from 16 games with a strike that will feature prominently in the end-of-season montage if league glory follows. Gearoid Morrissey’s 25-yard effort in front of the Shed End prompted delirious celebrations.
Caulfield’s men added a couple more in the closing stages, but they were given defensive problems by a Rovers outfit that will have travelled back up the M8 with regrets. The league leaders will have to perform better at Oriel Park next Friday.
It helps that they will travel there with a 15-point cushion; this was a significant win off the back of a gritty success in Sligo. And it was entertaining for the 5,135 crowd, an occasion worthy of the cliched ‘good ad for the league’ line.
Ireland U21 boss Noel King was present and the first half was a story of three promising youngsters; one who has come back from England for this season, and another pair who are likely headed that way for a second time this summer.
Ryan Delaney is on loan at Cork City from Burton and the 20-year-old ensured that the teams went in level at the interval by rising highest to dispatch a free kick from Greg Bolger. The towering centre half was a consistent threat from set pieces.
The reason that Cork were trailing at that point was an exceptional 16th-minute goal from Trevor Clarke, the exciting Rovers winger who is naturally left-sided but has thrived on the right.
With a trademark burst of pace, the 19-year-old shifted inside and embarked on a solo run that exposed stand-in Cork defender Jimmy Keohane, with the quality of the build-up matched by a powerful left-footer that fizzed past Mark McNulty and into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Cork’s response was impressive but surprisingly Sean Maguire’s finishing was not. The Preston-bound attacker, who is now too old for King’s age-group at 23, wasted two opportunities.
His goalbound header was blocked on the line by Ronan Finn after Delaney sent a corner in his direction. If that was bad luck, there was no excuse for his second miss with Roberto Lopes’ slip presenting a gilt edged one on one opportunity that Maguire squandered.
His effort didn’t even test Rovers’ stopper Kevin Horgan, a younger brother of Ireland winger Daryl, who was given a first league start at the expense of Tomer Chencinski – the Canadian having had an interrupted preparation for the game after his wife gave birth.
Horgan is not much taller than his brother and was crowded at set-pieces in a busy first half. A minute after the restart, he knew that the pattern would continue when McAllister’s clumsy tackle on Maguire drew a red card.
The extent of the player’s protest is often telling and McAllister made his way towards the tunnel without much fuss although a skirmish involving both sets of players had followed the initial foul.
Predictably, Cork piled on the pressure and Simon Madden cleared another Delaney effort off the line with Horgan beaten.
They were on top but the introduction of Ryan Connolly helped to steady the Hoops ship and their pace on the break was central to the defining minute of the encounter.
Brandon Miele wriggled away from Cork pursuers to release Clarke but the teenager never quite looked comfortable on his right foot and miscued.
Cork’s response was clinical. They worked the ball to Morrissey who took aim from distance with devastating effect.
Rovers did have an opportunity to square things up when Finn skied over inside the area but they were swimming against the tide and their vulnerability from aerial deliveries was exposed twice in the final eight minutes.
Delaney added his second to wrap up the points when Horgan pushed a header from sub Shane Griffin into his path. Skipper John Dunleavy then put the icing on the cake by steering home an injury time corner.
Cork City – McNulty, Keohane, Dunleavy, Delaney, O’Connor (Griffin 70); Bolger (Campion 61) , McCormack; Sheppard (Kavanagh 90), Morrissey, Dooley; Maguire.
Shamrock Rovers – Horgan, Madden, Webster, Lopes, Byrne; Finn, McAllister; Clarke (Meenan 88), Burke (Connolly 50), Miele; Shaw (O’Connor 82).
ref – J McKell (Tipperary).