Stout Rebels defence isn’t quite matched by an attack that hit 13 wides and just one point from play in second half
ALL-IRELAND SFC QUARTER-FINAL
Respectability comes in many guises – and scorelines – and for the Cork footballers this evening they came down somewhere right on the line between respectability and something a little harder to swallow.
For 35 minutes of this All-Ireland quarter-final Cork were more than a match for one of the title favourites, and with a little more conviction and a lot more shooting accuracy they might have made Dublin swallow a little harder than they had to in the end.
At half time Cork were 0-7 to 0-10 behind but had snuffed out any and all Dublin goal threats, were ahead on the ‘turnover’ count, and were looking quite at home in Croke Park. And then it all began to unravel. The first 18 minutes of the second half saw Dublin outscore Cork six points to none, as Cleary’s team began to get a better – or worse – sense of the sharp end of Championship football.
What will grate with Cork for a while was that this wasn’t the usual third quarter annihilation that Dublin more often than not visit on lesser teams; rather is was Farrell’s team easing up through a couple of gears, becoming tidier in their passing, movement and score execution, and Cork being unable to respond to that.
This was far from Championship winning form from Dublin, but it didn’t have to be. As Cleary acknowledged after, Cork, at the moment, cannot live with the very top teams, and that’s exactly how this contest played out.
As they were in the Munster semi-final against Kerry, Cork were competitive up to a point, but when the rubber hit the road they were overran by a better conditioned team, and out-fought and outscored by a team much further along in their development.
Cork won’t want to take any moral victory stuff from this defeat – nor should they. The fact is they were well beaten by a team that was missing two of their best players – James McCarthy and Con O’Callaghan – and an 11-point beating is that: a beating.
And yet. Dublin manager Dessie Farrell said Cork put up “significant resistance” over the course of the game, and he was right. Michéal Aodh Martin didn’t have a significant save to make from a Dublin shot, and though Dublin scored 21 points, Farrell was also bang on the money when he rated his team’s performance at “six and a half out of ten”.
What rating that would leave Cork’s performance at is neither here nor there. The Rebels have the rest of the year to reflect on not only this All-Ireland quarter-final performance but their season as a whole, which – Cleary also acknowledged – saw them win two Championship games but also lose two, by 11 and 12 points.
By the 14th minute Dublin were 0-4 to 0-1 to the good, but two points from the excellent Brian Hurley and another from Steven Sherlock made it 0-5 to 0-4 to Dublin as Cork settled into a confident rhythm of massed defending and snappy counter-attacking, which paid decent dividends when they got the ball inside quickly to Hurley, Sherlock and Cathail O’Mahony.
Dublin hit back with points from Paddy Small – with the help of the crossbar and a post – a couple of Dean Rock frees, and the score of the half – started with a wonderful catch by Niall Scully and finished off by Tom Lahiff – to go 0-9 to 0-5 ahead.
Cork’s response was immediate and impressive: a fine mark and score from Sherlock and then a better score from Eoghan McSweeney after the Knocknagree man was set up by Rory Maguire.
It all added up to a three-point lead for Dublin at the interval, but Cork would have felt good about themselves going to the break, with Dublin, perhaps, a little nervous about a half of football that saw them hit register six wides, half of them poorly executed, low percentage shots.
The story of the second half is a simple one. Cork didn’t score until the 53rd minute, but which time Dublin have eased nine ahead. John O’Rourke pointed for Cork in the 56th minute but all they mined after that were a couple of converted O’Mahony free kicks and not much else for Evan Comerford to do in the Dublin goal.
It all petered out to the inevitable Dublin double-digit win as the seagulls circled and the big house began to empty out. Dublin will be back in a fortnight to face Kerry or Mayo. Cork, one imagines, will be back too, but it will be some 12 months before that happens, save for a Division 2 final in the spring, which has to be their next target if they are to be able to better mix it with the big boys.
CORK: Michéal Aodh Martin (Nemo Rangers); Sean Power (Douglas), Maurice Shanley (Clonakilty), Kevin O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers); John Cooper (Éire Óg), Rory Maguire (Castlehaven), Mattie Taylor (Mallow); Ian Maguire (St Finbarr’s), Colm O’Callaghan (Éire Óg); Paul Ring (Aghabullogue), Eoghan McSweeney 0-1 (Knocknagree), John O’Rourke 0-1 (Carbery Rangers); Steven Sherlock 0-3 (1f, 1m) (St Finbarr’s), Brian Hurley 0-2 (Castlehaven), Cathail O’Mahony 0-3 (2f) (Mitchelstown). Subs: Daniel Dineen (Cill na Martra) for E McSweeney (49), Sean Meehan (Kiskeam) for P Ring (49), Brian Hayes (St Finbarrs) for S Sherlock (54), Cian Kelly (Ballincollig) for R Maguire (56), Blake Murphy (St Vincents) for C O’Callaghan (70)
DUBLIN: Evan Comerford, Eoin Murchan, Michael Fitzsimons, Lee Gannon 0-2, John Small, Jonny Cooper, Sean Bugler 0-1, Brian Fenton 0-2, Tom Lahiff 0-1, Niall Scully, Brian Howard, Ciarán Kilkenny 0-3, Cormac Costello 0-1, Dean Rock 0-9 (8f, 1m), Paddy Small 0-1. Subs: Lorcan O’Dell for S Bugler (53), Cian Murphy for J Cooper (56), Aaron Byrne 0-1 for P Small (61), Eoghan O’Donnell for E Murchan (67), David Byrne for J Small (70)
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)