'Even people in Cork didn't fancy us. It's good to shove it down their throats' - Paul Kerrigan
Cork 2-9 Longford 1-6
Published 18/07/2016 | 02:30
These are challenging times in Cork with character being called into serious question lately but skipper Paul Kerrigan was delighted to get out of Pearse Park's "bear pit" alive and prove the many naysayers wrong.
Their shock Munster semi-final defeat to Tipperary reverberated around the country but this confidence-building win against Longford will help stem the tide of pessimism and affords them a chance to make the last eight.
The manner of victory will please all concerned as the Rebels looked under pressure having trailed 1-4 to 0-3 at the break with Brian Kavanagh's penalty igniting a boisterous attendance of 3,567 and giving Longford hope of yet another giant-killing.
Cork were under the cosh having gone 25 minutes without a score but a different side reappeared for the second half and they asserted their dominance before running out comfortable winners. The Rebels have regularly faltered during uphill battles and overcoming adversity pleased Kerrigan. After much criticism, they bit back.
"James Loughrey was the only fella who had played up here with Antrim and he said 'that place is a bear pit, if you get out of there with a win you'll have earned it'. And we were under pressure in the first half," he said.
"This team is at a bit of a crossroads and it's nice to show a bit of guts, we've been questioned and we've been in those positions before against Tipp and Kildare last year and we folded to be honest with you, so it's nice to get out of here with a win.
"We were sent an article during the week where a local (Cork) journalist tipped Longford, even people down in our own place didn't fancy us so we showed plenty of character and it's good to shove it down their throats.
"Championship is about winning and digging it out, I remember when we won the 2010 All-Ireland we went to places like Wexford, Limerick after extra-time and they were character-building wins that toughened you up for the big games ahead."
Central to the comeback was the introduction of former All-Star attackers Colm O'Neill and Paddy Kelly, as well as U-21 star Seán Powter, who transformed an ailing attack which had been swallowed up by an eager Longford rearguard.
O'Neill fired Cork ahead, 1-6 to 1-4, with a trademark goal after soloing in along the endline and wheeling back onto his trusty left peg, and with Alan O'Connor winning the midfield battle, they never looked back as they restricted 13-man Longford to just two second-half points.
Darren Gallagher and Loughrey were given their marching orders for striking offences on 54 minutes while Diarmuid Masterson was sent off at the death as Ian Maguire's goal sealed the deal for Cork.
Having such quality to call upon when in trouble was the game changer. "We had two good subs to come on, Pa and Colm, two All-Ireland medal holders. That bit of experience up in the forwards especially was crucial and that bit of class and sensibility on the ball in the second half made a big difference," Kerrigan said.
"With this team I always said we haven't really won any huge game since 2012 and I think a lot of lads just need that confidence. Many lads haven't had wins with Cork's seniors compared to their U-21 career so it's nice for them. Now we're on a bit of a roll."
For Longford it's the end of their Qualifier fairytale but they lost nothing in defeat with successive victories over Division 1 opponents taking its toll.
Manager Denis Connerton rued some missed opportunities but had no qualms with the loss. "I thought we were a little bit tired, we just didn't seem to have that same energy in our legs that we had last week," explained the Longford boss.
"We played the perfect game last week and we most certainly didn't play the perfect game this week. They asked a lot of questions of us and we just didn't have the answers for them.
"Looking back on our run we've played 230 minutes against Division 1 teams and it basically took nearly 210 minutes to finally break us down."
Scorers - Cork: C O'Neill 1-1 (1f), I Maguire 1-0, P Kerrigan (1f) and M Collins 0-2 each, M Hurley, J Loughrey, P Kelly and J O'Rourke 0-1 each. Longford: B Cavanagh 1-1 (1-0 pen), R Smyth 0-2 (1f), D Masterson, J McGivney and M Quinn 0-1 each.
Cork: R Price 6; C O'Driscoll 6, E Cadogan 7, N Galvin 6; B O'Driscoll 5, J Loughrey 6, T Clancy 6; A O'Connor 8, I Maguire 7; K O'Driscoll 5, M Collins 7, M Hurley 7; D Goulding 5, P Kelleher 6, P Kerrigan 7. Subs: S Powter 7 for B O'Driscoll (35 + 2), C O'Neill 7 for K O'Driscoll and P Kelly 8 for D Goulding (both half-time), J O'Rourke 7 for P Kelleher (58), R Deane for A O'Connor (71), S Cronin for C O'Neill (BC 72).
Longford: P Collum 6, D McElligott 6, B Gilleran 7, B O'Farrell 6; C Farrelly 6, D Brady 7, M Quinn 7; M Brady 7, D Gallagher 6; D Masterson 7, B McKeon 6, J McGivney 6; R Smyth 7, B Kavanagh 6, L Connerton 5. Subs: M Hughes 6 for M Brady inj (46), P McGee 6 for B McKeon (55), D Reynolds 6 for L Connerton (63), B Farrell for B Kavanagh (65), R Connor for C Farrelly (67)
Ref - B Cassidy (Derry)