CORK City left it late to break down eight-man Shamrock Rovers, as the Rebel Army made it back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Ruairi Keating’s goal five minutes from time gave the hosts all three points, as Richie Towell, Sean Hoare and John Kenny all saw red cards for the away side.
After securing their first win in seven-league games against Sligo Rovers in City’s last outing, the Rebel Army made two changes to the side that were successful against the Bit O’Red. Barry Coffey came in for the suspended Matt Healy. John O’Donovan also missed out as the 18-year-old dropped to the bench for Josh Honohan, who was returning to the starting 11 after suspension.
Although Ally Gilchrist had served his three-match suspension, the defender was unavailable for selection after sustaining an injury in training.
Despite not troubling Rovers’ goalkeeper Leon Pohls, it was a positive start from City. Perhaps surprisingly, considering the supposed gulf in class between the two teams, the home side were brave in their approach. It wasn’t a case of City simply going direct to use the pace of Tunde Owolabi. The Rebel Army were playing out from the back, and at times, easily played through a soft press from Rovers.
Rovers’ passing was not as crisp as their usual standards, however, the visitors were still the side creating the only chances in the early stages of the game with Richie Towell twice coming close before Markus Poom fired just over the crossbar.
As the first half aged, the structure of the game became more like what was anticipated before kick-off, with Rovers dominating possession. However much of their passing was sideways and in areas that didn’t hurt City. The home side’s disciplined defensive shape was making it a frustrating evening for their opponents.
The warm weather was having an effect on the players with the pace of the game pedestrian-like during large periods of the first half. On the rare occasions that City did get the ball forward, Owolabi was injecting some quick pace to the contest but had little joy in terms of getting a shot on goal.
Rovers continued to create chances with both Gary O’Neill and Towell having almost identical efforts, with both dipping strikes going just over the crossbar.
Jimmy Corcoran did well to prevent Towell getting on the scoresheet with a well-timed challenge before O’Neill headed over from the resulting corner.
The away side were reduced to 10 men in the 36th minute when Towell collided with Gordon Walker while Rovers were defending a City corner. It appeared the incident with the two players happened as the ball was in play yet no penalty was awarded. Throughout the season, City have complained about some of the refereeing decisions that have gone against them, and although they will be satisfied Towell was dismissed, there will be questions asked as to why a penalty was not awarded.
Despite a quiet opening to the second half, the match soon sprung back into life when John Kenny replicated his teammate when he was given his marching orders for a second yellow card. The Celtic loanee had only been on the pitch five minutes before his early exit from the game.
Two minutes later Rovers were reduced to eight men when Sean Hoare picked up his second yellow card of the game. It seemed that the sending-off of Kenny had affected his teammate as Hoare was given a yellow for dissent followed by red for a challenge on Walker
Pressure grew on the City players from the home support to break down the visitors, but the Rebel Army struggled to find a way past the eight men, despite the best efforts of Ruairi Keating.
The striker was not to be denied late in the game when he got on the end of a low ball across the face of the goal, to steer the ball into the net.
Corcoran; Walker (O’Donovan 83), Crowley, Honohan, Hakkinen, Custovic; Coffey (Krezic 67), Bolger, O’Brien-Whitmarsh; Keating, Owolabi (Murphy 83).
Pohls; Hoare, Lopes, Cleary; Kavanagh, Poom (Nugent 77), O’Neill, Towell, Byrne (Greene 77), Farrugia (Finn 67); Gaffney (Kenny 56).