A forgettable season ended on a grimly fitting note as Cork City were outclassed by Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.
Usurped by the Hoops as Dundalk’s main challengers and FAI Cup final opponents, the Rebel Army found themselves second-best to their hosts as the curtain came down on a campaign that nobody will remember with fondness.
City had three changes from the previous week’s win over Dundalk, with Colm Horgan, Eoghan Stokes and Joel Coustrain coming into the team for Conor McCormack, Gearóid Morrissey and Karl Sheppard.
Not since the 2-1 victory on St Patrick’s Day 2017 had City won in Tallaght, with no goal scored since September of that year, and the first half reflected such a pattern as Rovers dominated the play, with Sam Byrne orchestrating matters in midfield.
While Dáire O’Connor had a couple of bright moments for City early on, Rovers soon got on top and they were ahead in the 16th minute. After a loose ball out of defence by City captain Conor McCarthy, Seán Kavanagh intercepted and he fed Byrne, who produced a fine shot from outside the area, giving goalkeeper Tadhg Ryan no chance.
Within ten minutes, the Rovers lead was doubled, centre-back Lee Grace heading home from a Byrne corner, though in the immediate aftermath of the second goal City almost forced an opening. O’Connor and Coustrain linked well and fed teenage striker Ben O’Brien-Whitmarsh though, just as he was about to shoot, Roberto Lopes got in a good block.
Most of action remained at the other end, though, and Aaron McEneff wasn’t far away from making it 3-0 as he curled a shot over and then Graham Burke hit the post from Kavanagh’s cross.
O’Brien-Whitmarsh went close again for City just before half-time, firing wide from Colm Horgan’s cross, but on the resumption Rovers once again dictated the flow of the game. When sub Neil Farrugia was fouled just outside the penalty area, Byrne’s free kick needed a good Ryan save and the custodian also denied Aaron Greene twice while Grace headed over from another corner.
On 71, City’s Eoghan Stokes went close, denied by Alan Mannus following a lovely flick by O’Brien-Whitmarsh, but Rovers had a third goal soon after that, Graham Burke curling a free kick home with 16 minutes remaining.
Mannus; O’Brien, Lopes, Grace, S Kavanagh (Farrugia half-time); McEneff (Bolger), O’Neill (B Kavanagh 66); Finn, Byrne, Burke; Greene.
Ryan; Horgan, McCarthy, Casey, Hurley; Buckley (Holland half-time), Byrne, Stokes (Doyle 87); D O’Connor, O’Brien-Whitmarsh, Coustrain (Dinanga 59).
D McGrath (Mayo).