'Positivity is key to any success. You just shut out negatives'
Patience and positivity. Conor Counihan had preached these virtues to his players all summer.
When they were being panned by critics, when they were struggling to hit anywhere near their best form, when they were out of sorts with themselves on days against Limerick, Roscommon and Dublin, these were the virtues that got them by.
And so it came to pass yesterday. When they needed to deliver their biggest and best performance of the championship, they did so, shaking off the shackles of a team that has often, from a distance, looked racked with doubt and insecurity.
Whatever about the journey, the destination this morning is all that really matters.
"You get tied up in terms of ratings and performance. I said last year when I sat there that it is a results business. That's as true today as it was the last day," said a satisfied Counihan.
"Look, people have been critical of us, maybe throughout the year. Maybe we have deserved some of it. I don't know, but also we have had an awful lot of positivity from people, the support we have got throughout the county and beyond has been phenomenal and it certainly helped us an awful lot.
"We said at the outset of the year in terms of pressure you can bring that on yourself. Critics can say 'look you should be doing this' or 'you should be doing that' and 'this guy is bad' and 'this guy is not'. If we are going to listen to that we're going to get nowhere.
"We had to maintain positivity. The best way we have managed that is to ignore those negative people and the critics. Look there are some (critics) out there and some of them are quite legitimate. There are others who, unfortunately whether it is sport or anything else, they do it on the basis that it earns dollars.
"I think that's a wider reflection on society. I am drifting away probably, but I do think positivity is the key to any success whether it's us or anyone else and you just shut down the negatives."
Their timing was just about perfect. Graham Canty didn't start because of a dearth of match fitness due to his ongoing hamstring problems but when he arrived back into the dressing-room at half-time, the team just three points adrift, he liked the air of serenity he felt.
"Things were pretty calm. Frank Cogan (team masseur, veteran of 1973 and Billy Morgan's brother-in-law) usually takes charge of the dressing-room. It was no different today. Frank is a very calm man all the time. And it transfers on the players. Lads hadn't played very well. We made mistakes and that was probably because of the intensity that Down had showed."
For Canty, the experience of losing two previous All-Ireland finals "counted for a lot" in those last 10 minutes. "A lot of the team had played in All-Ireland finals before.
"We lost them and we learned from them as well."
If the Cork players felt the pressure of previous failures weighing on their shoulders, Canty was able to put it in perspective.
"There was a small bit of pressure. Pressure is a funny thing. It's only as much pressure as you make it out. It's like anything. There's pressure in football, there's pressure in life and you have to compare the two things.
"The pressure in football is no comparison to the things that happen outside Croke Park and Pairc Ui Chaoimh. That's real pressure.
"The pressure that we experience, we're playing a sport we love. That's a different type of pressure and it's only the pressure you put on yourself."
The element of experience was critical, in the manager's estimation.
Again they were able to turn it into a positive force.
"This year there were times no doubt our experience played, and again today that experience, and we have witnessed it the last couple of years coming up against a very good Kerry team, experience, you just couldn't buy it," figured Counihan.
"I think if Down had the same level of experience today it would have been a different result," he admitted.
There was praise for Daniel Goulding for his execution of pressure frees and '45s in the second half.
"He is a phenomenal guy. He has grown over the last two years. It takes a lot to stand up and take those big kicks and that big ball.
"You need fellas like that. Probably in the past we squandered a few chances like that and it has cost us."
In hailing the victory, Counihan remembered those Cork players who have missed out on All-Ireland success in a frustrating 20-year period since 1990.
"When I spoke to them on Thursday night I said we have 30-odd good guys here, but there's an awful lot of guys who have been involved down through the years, who for one reason or another had to move on, those guys had as much of a part to play as you because they soldiered when the going was tough."