Cork City remain without a Premier Division win in their last seven, but there was nevertheless encouragement to be taken from a draw with second-placed Shamrock Rovers at Turner’s Cross on Sunday.
Before a crowd of 2,214, City led at half-time through Dáire O’Connor but Rovers upped things considerably in the second half and levelled through Aaron McEneff after a spell of concerted pressure. While the Hoops might have had the win, City held out to take a point.
While they had had a full ten-day rest since their Europa League exit against Progrès Niederkorn, City were still forced into three changes from that tie.
With Seán McLoughlin having joined Hull City, Dan Casey came into defence while Kevin O’Connor and Mark O’Sullivan replaced Garry Buckley and Karl Sheppard respectively.
Dáire O’Connor, the subject of transfer speculation at the end of last week, had an early effort which was deflected wide for a corner, but Rovers had the better of the opening exchanges.
Dylan Watts might have opened the scoring in the fifth minute, firing over from inside the area, while Dan Casey had to get a good block on a Gary O’Neill effort. From a Jack Byrne corner, Lee Grace rose well to head at goal but Ronan Hurley was there to clear on the line.
Twice, Conor McCarthy – City’s captain for the day – had to get in good blocks to deny former team-mate Graham Cummins, who was now in the pink of Rovers. In the midst of that, City almost forced an opening as Gearóid Morrissey found Mark O’Sullivan via a Joel Coustrain flick, but the flag was up for offside.
However, soon after the half-hour, the home side had the ball in the net.
After a sloppy ball by Joey O’Brien, Greg Bolger was caught in possession by O’Sullivan and Dáire O’Connor, allowing the latter to advance on Alan Mannus and curl a low shot past him to the net for his first City goal. While Bolger and Rovers felt he had bene fouled, referee Seán Grant waved away their complaints.
Bolger did go close shortly before half-time, a low shot just wide from 25 yards, and Jack Byrne had a free kick which was also off-target.
Rovers manager Stephen Bradley mixed things up for the second half, bringing on Aaron McEneff and Dan Carr for Bolger and Cummins, and the Hoops exerted plenty of pressure on the resumption.
Twice, McNulty had to save from Aaron Greene, who was now operating at centre-forward, while Greene sent a low shot just wide from a lovely McEneff pass.
On 58, Hurley repeated his first-half heroics, blocking another Grace header on the line, but after the resultant corner, Rovers kept play alive and McEneff curled a lovely shot home from the edge of the area.
Dylan Watts had a chance to put Rovers ahead but McNulty saved, while at the other end O’Sullivan went down under a challenge but no penalty was forthcoming.
After Ronan Finn headed over for Rovers, City had a great chance in injury time but Mannus saved from sub Darragh Crowley. Later still, Jack Byrne’s pass gave Greene a chance but he fired wide and it finished level.
McNulty; Horgan, McCarthy, Casey, Hurley; Morrissey, McCormack, K O’Connor; Coustrain, O’Sullivan (Crowley 80), D O’Connor (Griffin 66).
Mannus; Boyle, Lopes, Grace, O’Brien (Finn 53); O’Neill, Bolger (McEneff half-time); Greene, Byrne, Watts; Cummins (Carr half-time).
S Grant (Wexford).