With Dundalk strolling to a facile victory in Limerick, it was imperative City got three points last night but just as it looked like Sligo might hold on for a draw against an out-of-sorts home side, Keohane popped up with the winner two minutes after coming off the bench.
Sligo’s defence looked comfortable for most of the night with Patrick McLean and Kyle Callan-McFadden looking relatively untroubled but one lapse of concentration from Callan-McFadden, when he failed to control Colm Horgan’s cross, gave Keohane a sniff.
The former Sligo man finished with aplomb on the volley, shooting into the far corner of Mitchell Beeney’s net, for what could be a very important three points come the end of the season.
With John Caulfield serving a one-match ban, assistant John Cotter was making the calls in the Cork dugout.
With the suspended Steven Beattie and Garry Buckley also missing, City went with the same team that narrowly accounted for St Pat’s at the same venue on Friday night, which meant Conor McCarthy and Sean McLoughlin continued their central defensive partnership after impressing against Liam Buckley’s side.
Sligo only picked up their third victory of the season on Saturday night when they defeated Limerick 2-1 at the Market’s Field and manager Gerard Lyttle made three changes to that side.
Eduardo Pincelli, Adam Morgan, and Raffaele Cretaro missed out and were replaced by Caolan McAleer, Callum Waters, and Greg Moorhouse, who netted against Limerick.
Graham Cummins, who grabbed Cork’s winner against Pat’s, almost gave the home side the perfect start inside two minutes but Mitchell Beeney in the Sligo goal made a good stop to deny the striker from close range after a good cross from Horgan.
Sligo didn’t come to defend and Lyttle’s men looked lively in the opening period without testing Mark McNulty but like on a lot of occasions this season, City were again guilty of failing to move the ball quickly enough, with the lack of pace failing to trouble a Sligo defence that had let in 17 goals in their 10 league matches before this one.
Rhys McCabe, who scored a screamer when Sligo defeated City at Turner’s Cross last season and scorer of another cracker from 50 yards against Limerick on Saturday, looked confident in a more advanced role and he had the City defence worried.
The only time the home side looked dangerous was on the rare occasion they did move the ball with pace and McNamee had a half chance following a neat one-two with Cummins but Callan-McFadden blocked his shot from inside the box.
Beeney was forced to tip Karl Sheppard’s cross over his crossbar shortly before the break and McLoughin then had a shot deflected narrowly wide as City ended an uneventful half on the front foot.
Following the fallout from the recent Waterford game, Caulfield was banned from the dugout last night, and the City boss wouldn’t have been too pleased with his side’s first half showing from his vantage point in the stand.
Former Bit O’Red favourite Kieran Sadlier looked out of sorts in the first half against his old teammates. But the winger looked a lot more interested after the break and it was from his cross that Barry McNamee should have opened the scoring after the hour but the former Derry man missed the target from six yards.
City introduced Josh O’Hanlon for the ineffective Sheppard soon afterwards as Sligo began to retreat and Cummins went close with a header from Shane Griffin’s cross as City looked for an opener.
With Lyttle’s side looking happy to defend and hang on for the point, the winner did eventually arrive through Keohane shortly after replacing Gearoid Morrissey.
Cummins and McCarthy went close to a second late on but the three points is all that will matter to Caulfield and his men as they stay within two points of Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk at the top.
McNulty, Horgan, McCarthy, McLoughlin, Griffin, Sheppard (O’Hanlon 69), McCormack, Morrissey (Keohane 75), McNamee, Sadlier (Barry 85), Cummins.
Beeney, Boylan (Cretaro 83), Callan-McFadden, McClean, Donelon, Waters, Cawley, Keaney (Morgan 81), McAleer (Roy 81), McCabe, Moorhouse.
Derek Tomney (Dublin).