Another game and another night to remember for Cork City, but this time their swaggering winning margin masked the fact they also had to show spirit in coming from behind to beat a Shamrock Rovers who were reduced to 10 men with the score at 1-1.
SSE Airtricity Premier League
CORK CITY FC ....................... 4
Delaney 45, 82; Morrissey 66,
SHAMROCK ROVERS ............ 1
Defenders Ryan Delaney, with two, and skipper Johnny Dunleavy got their names on the scoreboard for the runaway leaders but the pick of the City goals was a Gearóid Morrissey thunderbolt whose only rival on the night was the scorching Trevor Clarke solo effort which had given the visitors a surprise first-half lead.
Kevin Horgan – brother of Daryl – was making his first league appearance for the Hoops since signing from Galway United and, with the home side applying concerted pressure right from the first whistle, it always looked like he was going to be in for a busy night. At the other end, Mark McNulty’s first involvement, after a full 15 minutes had elapsed, saw him on the receiving end of a very late, heavy challenge by Rovers’ striker Gary Shaw, an incident which ended, surprisingly, with no yellow card, but both players requiring treatment before play could continue.
But doubtless far more painful for McNulty was the blow which came a minute later as the speedy Trevor Clarke completed a diagonal right to left solo run with a blistering left-footed foot shot from the edge of the box which crashed into the Cork goal off the underside of the crossbar. With what was their first meaningful attack of the match, Rovers had taken the lead in sensational fashion.
Some individual brilliance from Sean Maguire, as he led the Hoops’ defence a merry dance, ended with his angled shot deflected into the side-netting for a corner, as City sought a quick response.
And Maguire really should have delivered just that in the 27th minute when, after Rovers defender Roberto Lopes had slipped on the greasy turf, the prolific striker was left in the clear in the box and looking odds on to beat the on-rushing Jordan. But to the disbelief of the home supporters who were all set to acclaim the inevitable, their leading scorer somehow drove his angled effort the wrong side of the post.
Seeking to make amends, Maguire then showed his class in ghosting past a couple of challenges to set up Stephen Dooley, but the winger’s low shot was well saved by Jordan.
So it went: City the more assertive side, dominating possession and creating most of the chances but Rovers, not at all shy about mixing it physically, continuing to stand firm at the back. But just when it looked like the visitors might retain their lead through to the break, City equalised right on the stroke of half-time, Ryan Delaney rising highest in the box to head Greg Bolger’s free into the roof of the net.
Barely had the game restarted than things went from bad to worse for Rovers, David McAllister seeing a straight red from referee James McKell for what, given it occurred in the middle of the pitch, was a needlessly aggressive challenge on Maguire which left Maguire in a heap on the turf and the rest of the Cork players up in arms.
As City sought to turn their man advantage into an advantage on the scoreboard, Delaney almost grabbed his and team’s second on the hour mark but, this time, his header from a Kevin O’Connor corner, was cleared off the line by Simon Madden.
In a bid to sharpen Cork’s cutting edge John Caulfield sent on Achille Campion for Greg Bolger but, after Trevor Clarke had blazed over from an inviting position at the end of a rare Hoops counter- attack, it was a Cork midfielder who showed how it should be done in the 66th minute, Morrissey rivalling Clarke’s wonderful first-half effort with his own goal of the month contender, a rising, right-footed blast from 25 yards out which left Jordan helpless and sent the majority in a crowd of 5,135 into raptures.
City then made the game safe in the 82nd minute. Rovers had struggled all night to defend Cork’s deep corners and, this time, though Jordan did well to keep out substitute Shane Griffin’s initial header, Delaney’s hunger for goals saw the big centre-half –subsequently named man of the match - double his own tally by hooking home the rebound.
And there was still time right at the death for Johnny Dunleavy to get in on the stoppers-turned-strikers act, the skipper’s thumping header from a Griffin corner making it 4-1 to Cork as they maintained their 15-point lead at the top and took another big step towards the title.
McNulty, Keohane, Dunleavy, Delaney, O’Connor (Griffin 70), Morrissey, McCormack, Bolger (Campion 61), Sheppard (Kavanagh 90), Dooley, Maguire
Horgan, Madden, Webster, McAllister, Byrne; Finn, Lopes, Clarke (Meenan 85), Burke (Connolly 50); Miele; Shaw (O’Connor 82).
James McKell (Tipperary).
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