Thursday 23 January 2020

Rovers desperate to end grim run against Cork

Focused: Stephen Bradley. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Focused: Stephen Bradley. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

There's a spice in the rivalry between Shamrock Rovers and Cork City that should add something to this evening's EA Sports Cup semi-final at Tallaght Stadium.

Stephen Bradley is still searching for a first win against Cork and succeeded in riling the Leesiders earlier this year by suggesting they were a one-man team reliant on Sean Maguire.

That preceded a game in Tallaght where Maguire was the difference, but Bradley's post-match view that the Hoops had "battered" them was raised by City players in the aftermath of a Turner's Cross victory in May.

Cork were also irked by Bradley's view that the 2017 champions-elect had yet to meet the standards set by Dundalk in previous seasons.

Bradley struck a much more conciliatory tone ahead of the EA encounter, while acknowledging that it will be interesting to see how John Caulfield's men fare without star man Maguire.

"Sean was probably the best striker we've had in the league for a long, long time," he said.

"In terms of his movement down the sides, he was the one that took them up the pitch and allowed them to play their game off that.

"They are obviously still a very good side but for me he was the main focus of the team at the time.

"They will still be dangerous. We have got to be at our best to get something from the game, we know that."

Back-to-back home defeats against Bohemians and Derry City have halted Rovers' momentum, and the latter reverse was especially frustrating for Bradley given how many chances were squandered.

Rovers are now eight points behind Derry in the race for third, and Candystripes boss Kenny Shiels was in good form after that game, repeatedly referring to the quality of players the Hoops have and their ability to recruit from other clubs.

He had mischievously stated beforehand that a third-placed finish for Rovers would be like a last-place finish for Derry.

Bradley still thinks there will be twists and turns in the race for Europe. Tonight, he is still without Roberto Lopes and Sam Bone, while Lee Grace is cup-tied.

Cork have a treble on their mind and bounced back from their shock loss to Bohemians by coming away from Drogheda with three points on Friday.

Caulfield has indicated he will mix things up personnel-wise. Certain changes will be enforced, with Conor McCormack suspended and Kieran Sadlier cup-tied.

"We know it will be a difficult game; Rovers are at home and will see this as an opportunity but we have done our work, we know what they are good at and we feel there are areas we can cause them problems," he said.

Relations have been slightly more cordial between Galway and Dundalk, although Stephen Kenny's men return to the scene of a key moment in their early-season struggles in the other semi-final.

They lost at Eamonn Deacy Park in April as Cork started to disappear into the distance. That was Galway's first win of the campaign but they have picked up three from their last four to give themselves a chance of avoiding the drop.

"The game couldn't have come at a better time for us," said Galway boss Shane Keegan, who claims that morale has soared in his camp.

However, they must cope without the suspended Ronan Murray, who bagged the crucial brace at Finn Harps on Friday.

Dundalk are without the cup-tied Dylan Connolly, and Dane Massey is also a major doubt.

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