RUAIRÍ KEATING struck late on as Cork City made it back-to-back wins by sinking Shamrock Rovers — who finished this game with just EIGHT men.
A balmy evening at Turner’s Cross saw a game of few chances, in sharp contrast to the eight-goal thriller between the sides in Tallaght in March.
Keating’s seventh league goal of the campaign, from Kevin Custovic’s low cross, gave the Rebel Army successive victories for the first time all season.
Rovers’ lack of numbers helped them, though. The champions’ nightmare began seven minutes before the break as midfielder Richie Towell was shown a straight red card after a goalmouth tangle with Gordon Walker.
But the 4,200-odd crowd were left nonplussed when referee Seán Grant did not award a penalty, having been alerted to the incident by his official.
In the second half, sub Johnny Kenny was only on the pitch four minutes when he picked up two yellows, the first for dissent and the second for a late tackle.
And Seán Hoare followed him to the changing room as two quick yellows left City three players up with almost half an hour to play.
The visitors had dominated early on but were unable to regain top spot in the table as they fell to successive defeats.
Markus Poom fired too high and Gary O’Neill blazed another long-range effort over the bar on the half-hour. In between these fleeting chances, City’s speed merchant Tunde Owolabi tried to find Keating in the box but his cross was headed clear by Daniel Cleary.
A point against the champions would have been an acceptable outcome for Cork, who ended a six-game losing sequence with a narrow win over Sligo last week.
City played a counter-attacking game given their limited amount of possession and real chances were at a premium.
But Keating struck with five minutes left to move them nine points clear of the relegation spot.
CORK CITY: Corcoran 6; Crowley 7, Hakkinen 7, Honohan 6; Walker 6 (O’Donovan 83, 6), Coffey 7 (Krezic 68, 6), Bolger 7, O’Brien-Whitmarsh 6, Custovic 6; Owolabi 7 (Murphy 83, 6), Keating 7.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Pohls 6; Cleary 7, Lopes 7, Hoare 4; Farrugia 6 (Finn 68, 6), O’Neill 7, Poom 6 (Nugent 76, 6), Kavanagh 6; Byrne 7 (Greene 77, 6), Towell 2; Gaffney 6 (Kenny 54, 2).
REFEREE: S Grant (Wexford) 6.