by Ed Leahy at Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers and Cork City played out another 1-1 draw in tonight’s Setanta Sports Cup semi-final first leg at Tallaght Stadium.
A recent league encounter produced the same result when a late Derek Foran goal ensured a point for Trevor Croly’s Rovers. But it was the home side who scored first tonight thanks to a Danny Murphy deflection from a Mark Quigley free-kick.
The visitors hit back straight away and grabbed a valuable away goal thanks to a fine effort from former Hoops player Daryl Kavanagh who cut in from the left to curl a delightful shot past Barry Murphy.
Summer football eventually arrived at Tallaght, but the warm, bright evening appeared to have an adverse effect on the early stages of this cup tie as it bared resemblance to a pre-season friendly played in front of a relatively poor crowd for a last-four encounter.
Rovers passed the ball at will over and back, without really going anywhere, while the visitors set their defensive stall out early on and were happy to sit back and absorb the pressure.
And things didn’t get much better throughout the opening period with Danny Ledwith’s speculative effort from the half-way line after ten minutes the only chance of note.
The Rovers midfielder picked up the ball from a kick out and decided to have a go from distance as the keeper was well off his line. Mark McNulty was beaten but the ball landed on the roof of the net and Cork survived.
And that’s the way it remained, with a James Chambers effort after 34 minutes typifying the pace and tempo of the game. The former St Pat’s midfielder picked the ball up just inside the Cork half, ran at the heart of the defence but his side-foot effort was weak and rolled into the hands of McNulty.
But the semi-final encounter received a welcome, if unexpected, lease of life in the 38th minute after the home side were awarded a free-kick ten yards outside the Cork penalty area.
Mark Quigley’s effort was weak and misplaced, yet defender Danny Murphy, playing against his old side, stuck out a leg and a wicked deflection sent the ball beyond the reach of the Cork keeper.
The equaliser arrived two minutes later, and there was nothing ordinary about Daryl Kavanagh’s superb strike from outside the box, and the sides were level going into the break.
An early second-half effort from Sean O’Connor failed to trouble McNulty and it was the visitors who almost grabbed a second away goal in the 57th minute.
Former Ireland international Colin Healy flighted a free into the box and man of the match Darren Dennehy connected with an excellent header. A stationary Murphy looked confident that it was going wide but it travelled just past his right-hand post.
That effort sparked some life into the home side as Pat Sullivan went on a marauding run down the right wing, feeding O’Connor, who linked up with Finn, while the former Cork defender continued his run into the box and almost got on the end of a fine Finn pass but a hooped sock, of the red and white variety, intercepted to clear for a corner.
Rovers nearly snatched a winner as the game went into injury time. Chambers burst into the box and looked set to shoot before Karl Sheppard appeared to take the ball off his foot and drift wide with the bouncing ball waiting to be hit.
Sheppard’s effort flew across the face of the goal and Chambers had continued his run in on goal but couldn’t steer the ball into the empty net.
But the final 30 minutes of tonight’s encounter lacked quality, with both sides resorting to long-range efforts that failed to trouble either goalkeeper.
The only other exciting moments arrived four minutes from time as the home side had two quick penalty appeals waved away. And in all honesty, like this evening’s entertainment, they were half-hearted.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Pat Sullivan, Ken Oman (Rice 68), Derek Foran, Conor Powell; Sean O’Connor (McCabe 74), James Chambers, Ronan Finn, Danny Ledwith; Mark Quigley (Sheppard 71), Ciaran Kilduff.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Neal Horgan, Garry Buckley, Darren Dennehy, Danny Murphy; Ian Turner, John Dunleavy, Colin Healy, Daryl Horgan (Rundle 75); Daryl Kavanagh (Behan 90), Danny Furlong (Morrissey 73).
Referee: Neil Doyle.