Shamrock Rovers extended their unbeaten record to seven games in all competitions, while Cork City remain seven without victory in the league, after a draw at Turner's Cross on Sunday afternoon.
Before a crowd of 2,214, the home side led at half-time thanks to Dáire O’Connor’s goal but Rovers manager Stephen Bradley introduced Aaron McEneff, Dan Carr and Ronan Finn – all rested with the Europa League tie against Apollon Limassol in mind – in the second half and the visitors were a more threatening proposition.
Aaron Greene, moved from the wing to the central striker’s role, went close to having an immediate impact as he twice drew good saves from Mark McNulty and then had an effort just wide when McEneff picked him out with a lovely pass. Then, just before the hour, Lee Grace rose to meet a Jack Byrne corner but Ronan Hurley did well to block on the line, having similarly denied Grace in the first half.
That led to another corner and when that wasn’t cleared, the ball fell to McEneff on the edge of the area and he produced a fine curling effort beyond the dive of McNulty. Going into the game eight points behind Dundalk with the same number played, Rovers pushed on for a winner but, apart from a Dylan Watts effort which was saved a late Greene effort off-target, they couldn't force sufficient chances.
The home side, on the back foot for much of the second period, struggled to threaten to get a second, though they felt they deserved a penalty when Mark O'Sullivan went down in the area on 69 minutes.
In injury time, sub Darragh Crowley had a chance but Alan Mannus saved from him.
It was a similar pattern of play in the first half, Rovers with more of the territory, though City were able to pose questions too.
Watts and Gary O'Neill had half-chances for Rovers in the early stages and, as he would later, Grace had a header blocked by Hurley while Conor McCarthy twice did well to deny Graham Cummins chances against his former club.
The opening goal came after a sloppy Joey O'Brien pass let Greg Bolger in trouble and Mark O'Sullivan and Dáire O'Connor combined to dispossess him, with the Hoops' appeals for a foul ignored. With a free run on goal, O'Connor did the rest, netting his first for the Rebel Army.
Rovers looked to respond strongly and O'Brien's pass gave Bolger a long-range shot which was just wide while Jack Byrne's free kick flew over. In injury time, O'Brien made his way into the area but McCarthy blocked again.
At the break, Bradley called for the cavalry and the changes brought about the desired effect, though City held out for a point.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Colm Horgan, Conor McCarthy, Dan Casey, Ronan Hurley; Gearóid Morrissey, Conor McCormack, Kevin O’Connor; Joel Coustrain, Mark O’Sullivan (Darragh Crowley 80), Dáire O’Connor (Shane Griffin 66).
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Ethan Boyle, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Joey O’Brien (Ronan Finn 53); Gary O’Neill, Greg Bolger (Aaron McEneff half-time); Aaron Greene, Jack Byrne, Dylan Watts; Graham Cummins (Dan Carr half-time).
Referee: Seán Grant (Wexford).