Shels more than played their part in another compelling game between these two sides but Vinny Sullivan’s brace made the crucial difference for Cork.
With John Dunleavy out injured, Colin Healy slotted in at right-back for Cork while Shels, without the suspended Stephen Paisley, had Andy Boyle alongside Ian Ryan at the heart of their defence. But it was the visitors’ rearguard which was first to be tested, Philip Gorman getting in a strong shot which Cork keeper Mark McNulty batted away.
Davin O’Neill was then guilty of wasting a good chance for City after Daryl Horgan found him in space, O’Neill trying to find a better angle instead of shooting first time..
Over the first quarter of an hour, Shels gradually appeared to be getting a grip on the game but, without the experienced Paisley, the home defence always looked vulnerable to sporadic Cork attacks. And, in the 20th minute, the two City front men combined well to give the visitors the lead and their first away goal of the campaign, Tadhg Purcell supplying the incisive short pass for Sullivan to finish from just inside the box.
Moments later, Cork almost doubled their advantage with O’Neill only denied a goal when his clever chip was headed off the line by Sean Byrne. And just a couple of minutes before the break, they had the ball in the net again but this time Anto Murphy’s blushes were spared when his headed own goal was ruled out because of a push into the back of the Shelbourne man by Kalen Spillane.
Cork looked like they might rue their failure to convert those first-half chances. Barely had the second half got under way than they were caught cold and the home side were level.
The City defence failed to cut out a Murphy cross from the right and, at the far side of the box, Paddy Kavanagh smashed a volley with sufficient power to beat McNulty, even though the City keeper got a hand to it.
With the tide now turned in favour of the Reds, Philip Gorman then saw his long-range effort come back off the underside of the bar, with the Cork goalkeeper well beaten.
Shels were now firmly in the ascendancy, and the visitors had McNulty to thank on the hour when the keeper spread himself well to block a Philly Hughes shot with his right foot, after a route-one ball had put the Shels danger man through on goal.
It was by no means all one-way traffic, however, with wingers O’Neill and Horgan posing a threat for Cork and, in the 73rd minute, a Purcell header ended up in the Shels net — but the goal was disallowed for a push.
Seven minutes from the end, Cork served up a delicious replay of the goal which won them the title here last season.
Admittedly, this time it was at the other end of the ground but, otherwise, it was almost an exact replica, Purcell playing the role of Derek O’Brien by crossing from the left and Sullivan impersonating Graham Cummins with a fine glancing header to the back of the net.
There was still time for McNulty to keep out a curling effort from Hughes and, though he was brought on mainly to run the clock down, for substitute Ian Turner to play a significant cameo role by heading off the line to protect Cork’s lead and earn them a morale-boosting first away win of the league campaign.
SHELBOURNE: Skinner, Shorthall, Boyle, Ryan, Byrne, Kavanagh (P Byrne 85), Cronin, Gorman, Murphy, Cassidy, Hughes.
CORK CITY: McNulty, Healy, Murray, Spillane, Murphy, Horgan, Morrissey, Duggan, O’Neill, Sullivan, Purcell (Turner 90).
Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin).