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Footballers get the job done in Leitrim

National Football League Division 3: Leitrim 0-9 Cork 1-15

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Cork’s John O’Rourke wins a free under the challenge of Leitrim’s Aidan Flynn. Photo by Willie Donnellan

Cork’s John O’Rourke wins a free under the challenge of Leitrim’s Aidan Flynn. Photo by Willie Donnellan

Cork’s John O’Rourke wins a free under the challenge of Leitrim’s Aidan Flynn. Photo by Willie Donnellan

It was comfortable in the end but Cork had to work to see Leitrim off at Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada last Sunday. For the first time since 2015, Cork have won their opening two games in the league and go into Sunday's clash with Down as the sole leaders of Division 3.

While the Rebels led from the 13th minute, they were pushed throughout by a dogged Leitrim side, who came into the game on the back of a draw with Derry. Cork had the wind in the first half, but struggled to take full advantage for long periods, with Leitrim's massed defensive ranks proving difficult to break down.

Leitrim did lead when Keith Beirne - scorer of seven of their nine points - kicked the game's opening score, but two from Cathail O'Mahony helped Cork to get on top, even if the massed defensive ranks were hard to break down.

A good Beirne score in reply had the gap down to a point and Leitrim might have led as Beirne fed Darragh Rooney, who was denied by a good Micheál Martin save. On 19, Cork had the first of four good first-half goal chances, with Sheehan flicking on to O'Mahony, but Diarmuid McKiernan did well to save.

Cork got some momentum as O'Mahony and John O'Rourke eased them three clear but again they were almost caught at the other end, Shane Quinn's ball nearly putting Beirne in but for an illegal sliding tackle by Kevin Crowley, who was yellow-carded. Beirne pointed the free.

Just after the half-hour, a lovely Cork move involving Luke Connolly - just on a as sub - Sheehan and O'Rourke saw the ball worked to Ian Maguire but again McKieran prevented a goal. Moments later, a Maguire turnover allowed Sheehan to make it 0-6 to 0-3 and he would add a goal in injury time.

Once more, Cork moved the ball quickly, with Ruairí Deane and Thomas Clancy to the fore, and Sheehan wasn't going to miss from close range. Indeed, Connolly almost added a second green flag but McKiernan made his third good save of the half.

Clancy's point left it 1-7 to 0-3 at the break and, while Beirne had a free on the resumption, Cork moved eight clear thanks to Connolly and Tadhg Corkery, though they were reduced to 14 as Connolly was black-carded.

In the period of numerical disparity, Beirne added two points, one a free, but missed a chance to cut the lead to five and Cork were 1-10 to 0-6 ahead on 57 minutes as Paul Kerrigan scored with his first touch.

Moments later, Connolly almost marked his return with a goal but he fired a low shot wide after Kerrigan and Maguire combined to fashion a chance for him.

Seán White extended the Cork lead but Leitrim refused to wilt and sub Evan Sweeney became their second scorer on 62 before an unforced Cork error from the kickout led to a free, allowing Beirne to claim his seventh point.

Cork and Connolly finished well though, as he kicked two frees and claimed an attacking mark leading to a point. Connolly remains the most mercurial forward Cork have and his final point, when he received a handpass with his back to goal and fist-volleyed it over his head and over the bar, showcased his originality. More to come, hopefully.

Cork: Micheál Martin; Kevin Crowley, Thomas Clancy, Liam O'Donovan; Tadhg Corkery (0-1), Seán Powter, Mattie Taylor; Ian Maguire, Brian Hartnett; Ruairí Deane, Seán White (0-1), John O'Rourke (0-1); Michael Hurley, Ciarán Sheehan (1-2), Cathail O'Mahony (0-3, 1f) Subs: Luke Connolly (0-5, 2f, 1m) for Hurley, 30, Kevin O'Driscoll for O'Rourke, 55, Paul Kerrigan (0-1) for O'Mahony, 55, Cian Kiely for Powter, 58, Ryan Harkin for Sheehan, 67

Leitrim: Diarmuid McKiernan; Conor Reynolds, Fergal McTague, Paddy Maguire; Cillian McGloin, Jack Gilheany, Aidan Flynn; Donal Wrynn, Shane Moran; Domhnaill Flynn, Dean McGovern, Oisín McCaffrey; Darragh Rooney, Keith Beirne (0-7, 5f), Shane Quinn Subs: Raymond Mulvey (0-1) for McTague, 39, Pierce Dolan for McCaffrey, 45, Evan Sweeney (0-1) for Rooney, 52, Riordan O'Rourke for Gilheany (inj), 54, Oisín McLoughlin for Moran, 66

Referee: Patrick Maguire (Longford)

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