Shamrock Rovers celebrate during their win over Cork City. Picture: George Kelly

LOI Premier Division
Shamrock Rovers 2
Cork City 0

SHAMROCK Rovers remain neck-and-neck with Dundalk at the top of the Premier Division following a routine 2-0 win over Cork City at Tallaght Stadium.

Joey O’Brien’s first goal for the club and Roberto Lopes’ fourth of the season saw the Hoops to victory as Stephen Bradley’s side upped the ante after the break.

A dogged Cork side kept Rovers scoreless until the break but never looked like getting back into the game following O’Brien’s 51st-minute opener.

The five-times-capped Ireland international finished brilliantly from Ronan Finn’s cross as Rovers’ relentless pressure finally told, and Lopes added a second ten minutes later.

City had changed manager since the last time the sides met, a 3-1 win for Rovers at Turner’s Cross, with John Cotter replacing John Caulfield on a caretaker basis.

And the visitors seemed to play with a little more freedom in the early stages than they have in recent times.

They had the first chance as former UCD winger Daire O’Connor squeezed his way through at the endline and pulled back for Karl Sheppard, but Ronan Finn was in to clear.

Rovers took over from there and Trevor Clarke went close with two crosses-turned-shots, the second of which rattled the crossbar after Mark McNulty had palmed the first away.

In between, Dan Carr had passed up a glorious chance when he allowed Finn’s cross to run under his foot with the goal at his mercy.

Jack Byrne was the man pulling the strings behind every bit of attacking play, and his cross should have led to the opener just before half time, but Lopes glanced a header wide.

Rovers continued to press in the second half and, after Aaron Greene headed wide at the back post, they finally made their pressure count.

A build-up involving Byrne, Dylan Watts and Finn ended with the captain picking out O’Brien arriving from the right, and he swept home first time with his left foot.

O’Brien was denied a second shortly afterwards thanks to a terrific save from McNulty, but Lopes was unmarked from the resulting corner and nodded in at the back post.

Clarke could have wrapped up the win late on when played in on goal but he shot over from a tight angle, and Rovers coasted to a comfortable 2-0 win.

“I think first half we could have taken the lead once or twice without playing at our best,” Bradley told the Dublin Gazette. “I thought the second half was more like us and we completely controlled the game. We just upped our tempo. We moved it quicker, we got into our positions quicker.

“Everything was sharper, decision-making [was sharper], and when we do that we’re hard to play against.

“It was a great finish from Joey because it’s bounced out to him and he’s hit it first-time, but it was a really controlled finish. I think it was on his left foot as well.”