Maguire on the double as Corkmen enjoy high five
Shamrock Rovers 1 Cork City 2
It's surely a worry for the rest of the teams in the League of Ireland that Cork City can set themselves clear at the top of the table, with five wins from five and still claim that they can, and must, do a lot better.
Cork left Tallaght Stadium yesterday with another three points after adding to Shamrock Rovers' early-season worries courtesy of another brace of goals from Sean Maguire, last season's top scorer.
A scrappy affair is best summed up by the bare stats - two of the three goals came from the penalty spot, the other arising from a dreadful error by Rovers goalkeeper Tomer Chencinski.
This was a game that will not live long in the memory; a DVD of the full 90 minutes would be stuff of the bargain bin variety.
It's a concern for Rovers that, after five games of the 2017 season, their points tally (six) shows how far off the pace they are.
For Cork, playing poorly but winning is the stuff that league title challenges are built on.
"In the past couple of games we have not played to the best of our ability but we've still come away with six points," said Maguire, who denied that he had dived for the crucial penalty.
"This time last year we were battering teams and getting draws. This year, we are a different breed of animal. We are grafting out games and getting three points which we did here, in difficult conditions, against a good Shamrock Rovers team."
For City boss John Caulfield, it was that man Maguire who made the difference. "I am disappointed in that a lot of our players didn't play well. Overall it might have looked like a draw as neither team could open up the other but the difference we have is Maguire," he said.
The Kilkenny-born forward scored for the fifth successive league game. While he has managed some classy goals, his first strike in this one was a howler as far as the Hoops were concerned.
Defender Danny Devine headed the ball back to goalkeeper Chencinski and there appeared to be little need for panic, but panic there was as the Canadian international tried to play the ball out and he was dispossessed by Maguire, who slid it home.
Being 1-0 down so early in the game was a shock to the system but Rovers responded well and were the better side for long spells, though Chencinski was almost beaten again on 21 minutes, Kevin O'Connor striking a free kick which needed a touch from the Rovers netminder.
The hosts equalised six minutes before half-time, Graham Burke scoring from the penalty spot after former Rovers man Conor McCormack had handled the ball in the box under pressure from Darren Meenan's cross. Gary Shaw then went close to putting them ahead just before the break.
Cork were unusually subdued for long spells after the restart, though the conditions - persistent rain and howling wind - made sure that the ball-players on the pitch were denied a chance to strut their stuff.
Stephen Bradley's men were the better side for much of that second half, the game, even.
Shaw and Trevor Clarke tried their luck from long range before, on 82 minutes, their star man Burke struck the crossbar. But it always looked as if grit, not glamour, was going to win this game and it turned out to be a penalty which swung things Cork's way.
With only four minutes of normal time left, Maguire burst into the Rovers box, where he went down under a challenge from Dave Webster. Referee Jim McKell made another penalty call and Maguire stepped up to claim his sixth of the season.
The Rovers players made it clear that they felt Maguire had dived but for Hoops boss Bradley that was a moot point.
"It doesn't matter if he dived or not - we shouldn't make the tackle," he said.
"We're very naive to make that tackle in the box where a forward, every forward, is going to go down. It's silly.
"It's frustrating, you know? You look at the second-half, we got into them, we pinned them in, we battered them, hit the crossbar, much the better team and two silly mistakes costs us the game," added Bradley.
So, Cork headed home with a spring in their step, but they know they will have to up their game next Saturday if they are to claim the scalp of champions Dundalk at Turner's Cross.
Shamrock Rovers - Chencinski, Madden, Devine, Webster, Clarke, McAllister, Meenan (O'Connor, 90), Finn, Connolly (Doona, 80), Burke, Shaw (Boyd, 73).
Cork City - McNulty, McCormack, Dunleavy (Bennett, 70), Delaney, O'Connor, Buckley, Beattie (Sheppard, 61), Morrissey, Keohane, Dooley (Ellis, 77), Maguire
Ref - Jim McKell