Shamrock Rovers headed to Cork looking to claim their first three points over the Leesiders in four games. A second consecutive 0-0 draw this season was the result however, with neither side being able to pull away in a pulsating game.
In a first half that flew by, it was certainly Shamrock Rovers who would’ve been happier with their lot. Pat Fenlon’s players were insatiable in their appetite to win the ball back, pressing extremely hard in midfield.
The only chances coming from either side were from distance, aside from a Michael Drennan header going straight into the arms of Mark McNulty in the Cork City goal. The Leesiders dominated the middle third of the half but it was clear that Ryan Brennan had been placed in the advanced central midfield role to disrupt any well-worked play from the back by Liam Miller and co.
Gavan Holohan, who was playing in a similar position to the aforementioned Brennan, on the other hand, was completely shut out with nothing going right for the ex-Drog.
The last time these sides met it was a dire 0-0 draw in Tallaght, and going into half time one would be forgiven for thinking this game could go the same way, albeit for some stretches of fast-paced, exciting play.
The second half began a fraction more mildly but it soon grew into its more frantic pace, particularly as both sides started to press for a winner.
Shamrock Rovers looked the more threatening of the two sides as the half resumed, with a last ditch tackle by Darren Dennenhy on Simon Madden just outside the six-yard box illustrating the best chance of the game.
The saviour turned creator not long after, as City should’ve went in front. Darren’s brother Billy swung in an inviting corner, which was headed back across goal by Mark O’Sullivan but couldn’t be converted from point-blank range by the centre-back.
Penalty claims were dismissed by referee Paul Tuite shortly afterwards with O’Sullivan looking as though he was dragged down in the City penalty area.
Rovers looked more dangerous with the ball but it was the Leesiders who almost stole all three points when a Colin Healy free-kick found Garry Buckley just inside the penalty area. His header smashed off the bar and over with just eight minutes to go.
The home side ramped up the pressure after this but were unable to break the deadlock. It finished 0-0 in Turner’s Cross following a late flurry from Rovers.
He was clearly told to do a job and he did it to a tee. Breaking up play just inside City’s half, he ran all night to strangle any play developing for the opposition in the middle.
Taken off after 65 minutes for his direct central midfield alternative Garry Buckley, Holohan will know himself he had a stinker. From first minute to last he was out-muscled, out-thought and quite simply bypassed by Rovers’ midfield.
The biggest roar of the night came as O’Sullivan went down in the Rovers penalty area. The referee was having none of it however.
Mark O’Sullivan vs Maxime Blanchard
The tussles between the City striker and the Hoops’ centre-back provided much of the entertainment in a game bereft of many chances.
Winner: Blanchard for keeping the hard-working O’Sullivan quiet.
What Happens Next?
This result means Cork City and Rovers stay where they are, in second and third place respectively. Rovers are three points ahead of Bohemians while Cork City trail Dundalk by six.
The Leesiders face Galway United away from home in the league next before a second round FAI Cup game against Wexford Youths in Ferrycarrig Park.
The Hoops’ next game is away to St. Pat’s in the tie of the round before returning to league action with a home game at home to Owen Heary’s Sligo Rovers.
McNulty, Kavanagh, D. Dennehy, Murray, O’Connor, B. Dennehy, Miller, Healy, Holohan, Sheppard, O’Sullivan
Subs: O’Flynn, Gaynor, Smith, McSweeney, Lehane, Buckley, Kearney
Hyland, Madden, Kenna, Blanchard, Byrne, Miele, Cregg, Fahey, R. Brennan, G. Brennan, Drennan
Subs: Kelly, Clancy, McCabe, O’Connor, Waters, McCafferey, O’Connor
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena