Champions-elect Cork City were beaten away from home for the first time all season and they shipped three goals for the first time too as Shamrock Rovers repeated their EA Sports Cup, semi-final victory over the same opposition at Tallaght Stadium tonight,.
Goals from skipper Ronan Finn and Brandon Miele inside the opening 20 minutes gave the Hoops the points to lift them up to third in the Premier Division and all but guarantee them European football next summer.
City still needing five points to secure the league pennant were totally outplayed in the middle of the park as the Hoops closed them down and chased and harried for every ball to such an extent that the Leesiders did not have a shot on goal in the opening 45 minutes.
Ronan Finn opened the scoring in the 13th minute when his left-footed drive from Ryan Connolly’s pass deflected to the net off skipper Alan Bennett to wrong foot Mark McNulty at the shopping centre end.
It was 2-0 to Rovers after 20 minutes when Brandon Miele curled the ball past the diving McNulty after Trevor Clarke set him up for a shot from 25 yards range.
Rovers came into the tie with five straight wins behind them and a 3-0 away success over Shelbourne in the FAI Cup and they were by far the best team in a one sided first half.
Stephen Dooley was out again with a calf strain as Cork went with the same team as beat Finn Harps in Ballybofey two weeks ago while Stephen Bradley’s side had centre-half Dave Webster suspended on eight yellow cards, Graham Burke was out with a knee injury and full back Simon Madden was back after serving a match ban.
City’s only threat saw Kieran Sadlier scuff his shot inside the box but he was whistled back for offside nearing half-time.
McNulty saved well from Miele to deny Rovers a third goal on the restart and then Tomer Chencinski dived at Sadlier’s feet to keep City at bay.
But Gearoid Morrissey scored a bullet with 20 minutes to go as he rifled home Garry Buckley’s lay-off to give Cork hope of salvaging a point but it wasn’t to be as Rovers bagged a third goal on 85 minutes when man of the match Finn crossed from the end line for substitute Michael O’Connor to steer the ball high into the net.
Chencinski; Madden, Lopes , Grace, Madden, Clarke; McAllister, Finn (capt); Miele, Connolly, Bolger; Shaw.
Bone for Bolger (72 mins), O’Connor for Shaw (77 mins), Carpenter, Doona, Clarke, King & Horgan (not used)
McNulty; Beattie, Bennett (capt), Delaney, Griffin; McCormack, Morrissey; Keohane, Buckley, Sadlier; Sheppard.
Williams & Ellis for Bennett & McCormack (both half-time), Campion for Beattie (65 mins), Bolger, McCarthy & Smith (not used)
Paul McLaughlin (Donegal)