Heavy rain didn’t deter the faithful from attending, the majority in another big crowd of 5,676 enjoying one of those electric nights to remember at the Cross as unbeaten City moved up another gear and put down a real marker for the long campaign ahead.
As Rovers looked to get their passing game going, the intensity that has been a hallmark of manager John Caulfield’s time in charge was in evidence right from the start, with Gearoid Morrissey being shown a very early yellow card as City tenaciously contested every ball on a slippery surface that was kicking up plenty of spray.
Unlike Chelsea, Cork City have made a virtue of their theoretical lack of strikers so far this season, with Danny Morrissey, Michael Rafter and Anthony Elding all missing again last night. But once more the tireless Mark O’Sullivan stepped up to the plate, first turning provider in the 14th minute after he ran on to a Liam Kearney pass down the left and sent a fine cross into the area.
Garry Buckley, another man who has taken on the goal-getting role this season, met the ball with a strong downward header and when Rovers keeper Barry Murphy could only parry, Billy Dennehy was on hand to punish his former club with a close-range finish.
Murphy then had to be strong to deny a firm Buckley effort and though the ball was bundled over the line from the ensuing corner, referee Robert Rogers blew up for a foul on the keeper.
With lung-bursting effort, Cork kept the pressure up on a visibly rattled Rovers, Liam Kearney next to have a go with a swerving shot which extracted a brilliant fingertip save from Murphy.
Yet another chance went begging for Cork when O’Sullivan, on a solo run, cut right through the heart of the Rovers defence only for the ball to get away from him just when he seemed ready to pull the trigger.
And it continued to be City in the ascendant all the way through to the break, a Billy Dennehy shot and then an O’Sullivan volley keeping the pressure on the Rovers goal while, at the other end, the underworked Mark McNulty had nothing much more taxing to do than to watch a Ronan Finn long-ranger drift harmlessly wide.
There might have been a power cut in the press box at half-time but there was no reduction in energy on the part of the home side as, just eight minutes after the restart, Cork were two to the good, Billy Dennehy again working his magic on the right side of the area before chipping a left-footed cross to the far post where the unmarked O’Sullivan headed home to the delight of the packed Shed End behind Murphy’s goal.
And then, in the 64th minute, it was three. Colin Healy’s corner took the scenic route all the way to the far post where, with a true defender’s finish, Darren Dennehy made a bit of a meal of turning the ball home.
Trevor Croly looked to the top flight experience of Stephen McPhail in a bid to stem the green tide but, even as the Rovers boss emptied his bench, his players ultimately had no answer to the Rebels’ almost total dominance on the night.
All that was left was for man of the match O’Sullivan to be accorded a standing ovation from the big crowd as he was withdrawn from the fray with the clock running down and City’s victory, and the three points, already firmly in the bag.
CORK CITY: McNulty, Lenihan, Murray, D Dennehy, Dunleavy, B Dennehy (Kavanagh 82), Healy (O’Leary 74), Morrissey, Kearney, Buckley, O’ Sullivan (Lehane 87)
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Murphy, Madden, Kenna, McGuinness, Byrne; McCabe (Zayed 78), Brennan (McPhail 69), Finn, Robinson, O’Connor (Waters 55); Ciaran Kilduff.
Referee: Robert Rogers (Dublin).