O'Sullivan strike keeps Cork hot on leaders' tail
Cork City 1 Athlone Town 0
Cork City remain two points behind leaders Dundalk after they were forced to work hard for this victory at Turner's Cross.
For long periods, especially in the first half, it looked as if Cork would be frustrated by their visitors, whose solid and disciplined defence belied their position at the bottom of the table, but Mark O'Sullivan's second-half goal was decisive.
It had taken until just before the half-hour for either goalkeeper to be called into action, with Cork's Mark McNulty easily dealing with Graham Rusk's long-range effort.
At the other end, a cross from Dan Murray was met with the faintest of touches by O'Sullivan's head and glanced the outside of the post before going wide.
At half-time, home manager John Caulfield replaced Liam Kearney with Rob Lehane and changed to 4-4-2, and that was the trigger for the pattern of the game to change.
Lehane himself had a couple of chances and Gearoid Morrissey had an opportunity as City became more adventurous, with the reward coming in the 58th minute.
It was worth the wait, too, as Brian Lenihan found O'Sullivan with a lovely lofted ball from the right and the striker, despite being 15 yards from goal, was able to loop a perfectly-placed header beyond Paul Skinner's reach.
City were in control and O'Sullivan almost made it 2-0 straightaway only for Skinner to save while Barry Clancy did well to clear off the line after the goalkeeper got a hand to a Lehane effort.
McNulty did still have to be alert to deny Athlone sub Ian Sweeney with a fine save, and when visiting captain Alan Byrne was sent off for a second booking Cork looked safe.
Declan Brennan seemed to have given Athlone a point when his backheel beat McNulty, but captain John Dunleavy cleared to safety.
CORK CITY – McNulty; Dunleavy, Murray, D Dennehy; Davoren (Kavanagh 90); G Morrissey, Healy (O'Leary 74); Lenihan, Buckley, Kearney (Lehane h-t); O'Sullivan.
ATHLONE TOWN: Skinner; Quigley, Byrne, Brennan, Clancy; Dillon, Hughes; Brennan, Rusk (Harney 86), Marks (Sweeney 64); Gorman.
Ref – P Tuite (Dublin).