Shamrock Rovers hammered a lacklustre Cork side as goals from man of the match Gavin Brennan, Danny North and Brandon Miele gave Rovers a comfortable victory at Tallaght Stadium, where former Irish international Damien Duff made his debut for the Hoops.
Having named an unchanged side from their victory over Longford on Friday, Rovers produced their best performance of the season with some scintillating football in front of a buoyed crowd.
Cork started the brightest of both sides as Mark O’Sullivan and Stephen Beattie both had a couple of shots blocked. However, Rebel keeper Mark McNulty, had his left hand post to thank as Brennan cracked a snap shot from the edge of the box off the post.
Cork defender Alan Bennett went closest next, as Gary McCabe did brilliantly to clear the former Brentford defender’s header off the line from a corner.
But Rovers took the lead on the 36th minute when good work from Miele and when Luke Byrne crossed Brennan rose and brilliantly placed a header past McNulty. Despite Cork going a goal down, they arguably had their best spell in the game and pinned Rovers back to their own half but just could not work Murphy with Karl Sheppard and Beattie going close.
It was all Rovers in the second half and Danny North doubled Rovers lead after Mikey Drennan did brilliantly to keep a long ball in and cross for the Englishman and he met it with a bullet header to give McNulty no chance and effectively seal all three points. North has now scored 3 goals in 2 league games.
Rovers kept probing for more goals as the likes of Drenna, Miele, North and Brennan were lively on the counter attack as Cork huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser. Miele put the icing on the cake on the 89th minute as he latched onto a through ball from Drennan where he shot past a luckless McNulty in the Cork goal.
Damien Duff came on immediately after the final goal and he nearly got on the end of a well worked free kick, but the game was well and truly over at the stage with Rovers keeping all three points in Tallaght.
HERO – Gavin Brennan
Usual boo-boy of Dublin 24, put in a classy performance from the right side of midfield where he played a major part in Rovers victory over one of their biggest rivals. Brennan who was jeered off the pitch last week against St. Pat’s may have just kick started his Rovers career.
ZERO – Ross Gaynor
Playing in a more unfamiliar role, playing off the front of Mark O’Sullivan, the former Sligo man was not able to influence his influence on the game and Max Blanchard controlled the midfield from start to finish.
CROWD PLEASER – Mikey Drennan
Drennan who played in a deeper role off the front of North who held the ball up brilliantly. Drennan dropped into midfield, sprayed passes, set up counter attacks and always looked dangerous as Cork struggled to pick up in between the lines.
BEST BATTLE – Fenlon v Caulfield
Prior to tonight, both matches in this fixture finished scoreless and were dull affairs. Both managers had to find a way to get one over the other and Fenlon’s side were in complete control for the majority of the game using subtle tactical changes and getting the best of his players.
CHANT OF THE NIGHT
In the space of 30 seconds, Miele had sealed the win for Rovers and then big signing Damien Duff entered the fray for his debut. Tallaght was as loud as it has been since the days of the Europa League and every time ‘Duffer’ got the ball there was a scream from the majority of Tallaght; “SHOOT!”
Rovers have clawed the gap on the big teams and have now leapfrogged St Pat’s on goal difference and are now breathing down the Rebels necks with a game in hand. Rovers go to the Showgrounds next where they face a rejuvenated Sligo. A win in the west coast could even see the Hoops move into second place in the league.
Cork welcome Galway United to Turner’s Cross and will badly need three points as they have now lost to Limerick and Rovers within 3 days. The pressure will firmly be on Caulfield and his players and this defeat may have now just ended their faint title aspirations.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, Conor Kenna, David Webster, Luke Byrne; Max Blanchard, Gary McCabe, Gavin Brennan, Brandon Miele (Damien Duff 88); Mikey Drennan, Danny North (Gareth McCaffrey 84).
Cork City: Mark McNulty; John Kavanagh (Colin Healy 78), Dan Murray, Alan Bennett (Darren Dennehy 61), Kevin O’Connor; Liam Miller, Garry Buckley, Ross Gaynor (Danny O’Connell); Stephen Beattie, Karl Sheppard, Mark O’Sullivan.
Referee: Tomás Connolly (Dublin).