Goulding pounces to bring Cork back on track
IN the words of the great Alex Ferguson, it's 'squeaky bum' time at this stage of the league, and next weekend's matches for both Cork and Dublin are tests of desire and character.
Cork travel north to face Derry with morale boosted by this significant win over hitherto-unbeaten Dublin, while the Blues need to get back on the winning trail at home to Galway.
But neither set of players will quickly forget the pounding they gave each other during a pulsating first half at Pairc Ui Rinn on Saturday.
A crowd of 4,318 were enthralled by the unrelenting passion and ferocity of commitment displayed by both sides in an absorbing opening period.
Some fell by the wayside. Cork's Nicholas Murphy, who has been battling hamstring problems, lasted only nine minutes before they reappeared, and he was replaced by Ciaran Sheehan.
Dublin's Ger Brennan, playing at left half-back, took an early walk to the sideline after only 30 minutes, but performance, not form, caused him to be called ashore. Kevin Nolan came on as a sub. The scoreline at that point read Cork 2-7 Dublin 1-5 and already Pat Gilroy was looking for ways to stem the flow of Cork pressure.
Dublin weren't doing too bad on the counter-attack, and their defensive depth in numbers was translated to attack often enough to cause the home side plenty of concern, particularly in the first half.
Each side could have scored another goal or two in this game but the respective keepers -- Paddy O'Shea of Cork and Dublin's Michael Savage -- made good blocks on goal-bound shots in each half.
Neither man could do much about the goals they did concede, and for the Rebels, the goals they scored came at crucial times to sway the momentum in their favour.
The game started at a frantic speed, but when the dust settled, the fact was that Pat Gilroy's men never held the lead over the course of the game.
The best they did was to get on level terms twice -- first at 0-1 each and then at 0-2 each, with six minutes played.
Cork's Daniel Goulding got both his side's early scores - one from a free - and they were matched by one each from Kevin McManamon and Eamon Fennell.
The 11th-minute point for the Leesiders by Paddy Kelly that put his side in front was the prequel to the first goal just a minute later.
Cork peeled open the Dubs defence when a ball from Fintan Gould found Paul Kerrigan who then swiftly moved it to Alan O'Connor.
O'Connor in turn passed to Goulding and the latter gleefully slotted the ball past Michael Savage in the Dubs goal.
The men from the captial shook off the momentary trauma of their defensive line being broken and came back strongly -- so much so that the lively McManamon did brilliantly to win a high lofted ball sent in by Ross McConnell, beat the covering defender and fire in Dublin's first goal.
That 22nd-minute score managed to encourage Cork to up the ante once more, and the home side - inspired by the probing, harrying, and forward-pressing of the impressive Goulding, Kerrigan, O'Connor and Derek Kavanagh - breached the Sky Blues' cover once more.
This time it was Kerrigan putting the finishing touch to a clever jinking run by Paddy Kelly who dodged into clear space, giving Kerrigan the chance to score the home side's second goal eight minutes before half-time.
Kerrigan was delighted with that score, and also with the next couple of points from Kavanagh and Goulding which pushed Cork into a 2-8 to 1-5 lead at half-time.
"We knew it was going to be that kind of pace at the start," said Kerrigan after the game. "It was a top-of-the-table game and luckily enough we got that intensity up in the first half, and we went in a few points ahead.
"We felt if we could control the tempo and the possession in the second half we'd pick off the scores and that's what happened. The intensity dropped a bit but that's the way we wanted it."
Gilroy later said that his players did not work hard enough in that first half.
"We let them come on to us far too much. You get punished by top teams like that and Cork are a very good team. We were very naive with some of the things we did, but we were still trying," he said.
"In the second half our work rate was a lot better and we looked a lot more solid in the second half. I thought we recovered well enough in the second half to say we didn't roll over in the game."
The tempo dropped considerably in the second half, and even the introduction of Darren Magee and Conal Keaney couldn't inspire Dublin.
The Munster champions added five points in the second half, but Dublin could only manage two scores.
A solo run by Bernard Brogan culminated in a fine goal after 47 minutes, but the only other addition to the Dublin scoreline came from a Keaney point three minutes from full-time.
Cork boss Conor Counihan felt his side could have done even better. "We'd have been a bit disappointed at some of the options we took in the second half, but we wanted a response from our lads after losing last week and we got that," he said.
Scorers -- Cork: D Goulding 1-4 (2f), P Kerrigan 1-2, D Kavanagh, P Kelly 0-2 each, P O'Flynn, C Sheehan, A O'Connor 0-1 each. Dublin: B Brogan 1-2 (1f), K McManamon 1-1, E Fennell, C Keaney (0-1f), A Hubbard 0-1 each.
Cork -- P O'Shea; R Carey, M Shields, E Cotter; N O'Leary, P Kissane, E Cadogan; A O'Connor, D Kavanagh; F Gould, N Murphy, P Kelly; D Goulding, P Kerrigan, J Hayes. Subs: C Sheehan for Murphy (9), S Kiely for O'Leary (63), F Lynch for Gould (68), B O'Regan for E Cotter (68).
Dublin -- M Savage; P Conlon, M Fitzsimons, P McMahon; H Gill, C O'Sullivan, G Brennan; E Fennell, R McConnell; A Hubbard, M McAuley, P Flynn; D Henry, B Brogan, K McManamon. Subs: K Nolan for Brennan (30), D Kelly for McAuley (h-t), D Magee for McConnell (43), C Keaney for Flynn (48), M McAuley for Fennell (63).
ref -- P McEnaney (Monaghan).