Shamrock Rovers and Cork City draw first leg of Setanta Sports Cup semi-final

Dubliners will travel south with work to do

Derek Foran of Shamrock Rovers challenges Daryl Horgan of Cork City. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Derek Foran of Shamrock Rovers challenges Daryl Horgan of Cork City. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho


Shamrock Rovers 1 Cork City 1

If anyone connected with the Northern entrants to this year’s Setanta Sports Cup had watched a match like last night’s prior to playing one of the participants a few weeks back, they would surely have travelled south with a good deal of confidence.

Instead, every Irish League side is out and a number of their players and officials may just have had a rare night off ruined by watching two teams that accounted for four of the Danske Bank Premier Division’s top five do such miserable battle with each other here.

City won’t be complaining. Having come, their manager said, with the aim of keeping the tie alive, they head into next week’s second leg level but with an away goal.

On paper, it’s a promising position, but in reality, both sides have so much scope for improvement on what they produced here it would be foolish to pick a favourite to make the final.

Certainly the Dubliners will feel they can operate at another level to this, although having seen their side score seven on Friday the relatively few supporters who came out again last night might have been forgiven for thinking that they had already turned a corner.

Late on they did manage to exert a fair bit of pressure on City, who had to throw themselves about their own box a bit and it wasn’t actually clear how, between them, Karl Sheppard and James Chambers, failed to turn the ball home in the final seconds of added time.

On balance, though, they still would have been fortunate to come away with anything more than another draw.

Their problems had been clear from early on. Danny Ledwith had nearly scored a remarkable goal early on with an improvised effort from half-way when Mark McNulty was well off his line that flew just over but for the most part their efforts at anything more structured almost always ended with an error and an exchange of possession.

Fortunately for them, Cork were no better.

After so much poor football, it was predictable, really, the opening goal, when it did come after 38 minutes, would be the result of a mistake.

In fact, it was the product of two, with Mark Quigley following the pattern of the proceedings where set-pieces were concerned by firing a tame, low free into the City box.

The difference this time, though, was Danny Murphy haplessly stuck out a leg and turned the ball into the bottom left corner, with McNulty hopelessly wrong-footed.

The post-mortem between goalkeeper and defender went on for a while but once they actually were up and running again, City wasted no time in making collective amends for their left back.

Their equaliser was rather more impressive too, with Daryl Horgan getting on to a longish pass forward before quickly feeding Daryl Kavanagh who, instead of playing the return ball out wide, cut inside and curled the ball beyond Barry Murphy and into the far corner. For spells in the second half the quality improved a little and Rovers, in particular, started to string a few passes together.

At crucial moments, though, their touch let them down and McNulty had to do no more than gather a couple of harmless long-range efforts.

At the other end, Darren Dennehy went close with a glancing header from a Colin Healy free – the best of the night – but Murphy was barely bothered either.

If Cork manager Tommy Dunne can get some of his absentees back for next week then life may be a little more comfortable for him at Turner’s Cross. For the sake of the supporters, it would be nice to think that at least one of the goalkeepers has a tougher night.