Shamrock Rovers 1 Cork City 2: Despite the day that was in it, it was the Shamrock that was left wilting in Tallaght as Cork City extended their grand parade at the top of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division table.
In truth, this was a game characterised more by error than class and one which, despite being under the cosh for long spells in the second- half, City won through a combination of collective resilience and the unerring eye for goal of Sean Maguire, who kept up his hot streak by scoring early and late to give the visitors all three points.
As the game kicked off on a wet and windy afternoon, both sides showed two changes from last Monday, Gearóid Morrissey in for the injured Greg Bolger and Stephen Dooley replacing Karl Sheppard for Cork while, for the home side, Roberto Lopes and Brandon Miele missed out, with David McAllister coming in and Graham Burke returning from suspension.
After a scrappy opening, with attempts to play football not helped by the blustery conditions, it took only seven minutes for City to take the lead and, no surprise, it was Maguire who made the breakthrough. Mind, it was the result of a howler from Rovers, after goalkeeper Tomer Chencinski’s attempt to prevent a corner from a wayward Daniel Devine back header, went embarrassingly wrong.
Credit the Cork striker for his willingness to chase a lost cause – or, at least, so it seemed until the keeper’s momentum took him over the endline but, crucially, without retaining his hold on the ball. In stepped Maguire to accept the free gift and usher the ball back towards goal, where he then had the simple task of tapping into an empty net.
But a present in the opposite direction saw Rovers equalise in the 38th minute, after a giveaway handball by Conor McCormack, as he tried to prevent a Darren Meenan cross from reaching Gary Shaw, meant referee Jim McKelly had no option but to point to the spot. Graham Burke stepped up to take the penalty, beating Mark McNulty with a low left-footed drive to send the teams into the break on level terms.
A testing physical battle, the game was not exactly overflowing with quality play or goalmouth incidents, and although Rovers emerged as by far the more dominant side after the break, the bulk of the second-half came and went without either ‘keeper being seriously tested again.
Still, the scoreline kept everything nicely on edge in the knowledge one error or moment of magic could swing things decisively either way. And it was goalscorer Burke who almost delivered again for Rovers, crashing a fierce shot against McNulty’s crossbar with seven minutes remaining.
But just when it looked like the best City could hope for was to hang on for a point, the irrepressible Maguire intervened again in the 87th minute, first when, to Rovers’ dismay, he was judged to have been brought down in the box and then, ignoring the loud protests of the home support, by keeping his cool to send Chencinski the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Winning away from home even when they’re not setting the world on fire – it’s not a bad habit John Caulfield’s side are developing. And with six goals in five league games, they have a proven match-winner in Maguire, the man who did more than most to ensure City kept their perfect record intact on an imperfect day in Tallaght.
Chencinski; Madden, Devine, Webster, Clarke; Meenan (O’Connor 91), Finn, Burke, Connolly (Doona 80), McAllister; Shaw (Boyd 73).
McNulty; McCormack, Dunleavy (Bennett 70), Delaney, O’Connor; Beattie (Sheppard 61), Morrissey, Keohane, Buckley, Dooley (Ellis 77); Maguire
Jim McKell (Tipperary).
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