Cork City suffered a fourth league defeat in eight games as Shamrock Rovers proved far superior at Turner’s Cross on Friday night.
In front of an attendance of 3,273, the league leaders – who hadn’t won on Leeside since June 2013 – put in a composed and assured performance, dominant for much of the game.
After falling two behind in the first half, City did pull one back before half-time but the concession of a third ended the game as a contest. It was the first time City conceded three in a home league game since a 5-3 win at home to Galway United in 2016.
City had two changes from the loss to Dundalk a week ago. With Colm Horgan ruled out with injury, Dan Casey slotted back in after his return to fitness, Conor McCarthy moving to right-back.
In addition, James Tilley, who was suspended last week, replaced Shane Griffin, playing on the right as Karl Sheppard switched to the left.
As against Bohemians three weeks ago, City opted to play into the Shed End in the first half so as to harness momentum, but it was Rovers who hit the ground running.
They moved the ball a lot better from the off, captain Ronan Finn setting the tone, and former City man Greg Bolger went close for them inside six minutes.
On 11, City felt they should have had a penalty as Graham Cummins looked to be wrestled to the ground by Lee Grace but referee Robert Harvey waved away the protests and spoke to the striker after he reacted.
That move was against the general flow though and Rovers had the lead midway through the half as Seán Kavanagh turned home a low Bolger cross at the near post.
Finn almost made it 2-0 as he curled an effort off the crossbar just after that.
City thought they were level on 26 as Cummins headed home a James Tilley free kick but the flag was off for offside and things got worse eight minutes before half-time.
Following a good passing move, Finn set Aaron McEneff away and, after he did well to create space, his shot deflected off Seán McLoughlin and wrongfooted Mark McNulty to make it 2-0.
Just before the break, City did pull one back as Dan Casey headed home when Conor McCormack kept play alive after a corner wasn’t properly cleared.
It buoyed them and the home support as they retired at the interval, but despite a few half-chances on the resumption – McLoughlin and Cummins heading wide – City couldn’t create clear-cut opportunities and Rovers were two ahead again on 62.
Once again, it was McEneff finding the net, driving a 25-yard shot past McNulty following a beautiful reverse pass from Jack Byrne.
While there was just under a half-hour left and Liam Nash, Shane Griffin and Dan Smith were all introduced, City were unable to reverse the flow of the game and Rovers comfortably saw things out.
They are ten ahead of Dundalk at the top following the champions’ loss to St Patrick’s Athletic and 15 clear of City, who must improve and fast.
CORK CITY: McNulty; McCarthy, Casey, McLoughlin, K O’Connor (Griffin 72); McCormack, Morrissey; Tilley (Nash 64), Buckley, Sheppard (Smith 80); Cummins.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus; O’Brien, Lopes, Grace, Clarke; McEneff, Bolger; Byrne, Finn (Watts 81), S Kavanagh (B Kavanagh 90); Greene (Vojic 76).
Referee: R Harvey (Dublin).