Monday 18 December 2017

Rebels never need to come off the leash

While it couldn't be described as a compelling performance from Cork, their victory was seldom in serious doubt in a low-key National Hurling League encounter with Laois at Porlaoise last Saturday night.

The Rebels led by 0-11 to 0-3 at half time, an advantage that didn't flatter them considering they had clocked up eleven wides when backed by a howling wind before the break.

The conditions were unquestionably a contributory factor in the erratic shooting from both teams, with Cork finishing with a total of 14 wides, five more than the O'Moore County men, who also failed to avail of a few clear-cut goal chances.

The first of these fell to centre forward John Purcell, who brought the best out of Cork 'keeper Darran McCarthy in the 29th. minute.

After Laois were awarded a penalty in the ensuing goalmouth scramble, McCarthy again proved his worth with another fine save to deny his Laois counterpart Eoin Reilly.

Shortly after the restart, McCarthy foiled an effort from close range by Laois substitute Willie Hyland before the home side's frustration was completed in the 49th. minute when Reilly's booming puck-out broke kindly for substitute Ross King, who first-timed a golden opportunity outside the posts.

There is no disputing that McCarthy's sharpness between the sticks ensured that Cork remained firmly in the driving seat after racing into a three-point lead inside three minutes, with centre back Chris Joyce, Patrick Horgan, from a free, and Alan Cadogan the early marksmen for the visitors.

It was by no means a five-star display from last year's All-Ireland finalists, whose seven-point victory was hardly sufficient to boost their prospects of gaining promotion from Division 1B, bearing in mind that, following the draw with Limerick the previous weekend, score difference could come into play when it comes to determining which team eventually occupies top spot in the group.

Laois used wing forward Dwane Palmer as a sweeper at the back in the first half, and he mopped up plenty of ball, but the threat carried by Seamus Harnedy, Patrick Horgan and especially Alan Cadogan up front meant that Cork still created a lot of openings.

Harnedy and Cadogan had both chipped in with a brace of points from play before wing back William Egan got in on the act, following good work by Mark Ellis and Horgan, to make it 0-9 to 0-2 after 25 minutes.

Darren McCarthy's two saves in quick succession ensured that Cork were able to tighten the screw before half time, although, on the face of it, their eight-point lead didn't appear particularly intimidating from a Laois perspective considering the strength of the wind.

In view of their obvious limitations in attack, however, Laois, relying primarily on Stephen Maher's free-taking expertise for penetration, were always going to find it difficult to make up the leeway, and after Ross King squandered his aforementioned goal chance, Cork, 0-12 to 0-5 ahead at the time, never looked likely to be denied a pillar-to-post win.

Substitute Stephen Moylan had opened Cork's second half account a minute earlier, and after corner forward Tommy Fitzgerald pulled a point back for Laois in the 50th. minute, the losers were unable to make further inroads on the deficit.

As a unit, the Cork rearguard, in which Chris Joyce looked particularly assured at centre back, measured up well, with only Eoin Reilly's massive puck-outs putting them under any sort of pressure in the second half.

Mark Ellis was always to the fore at midfield, while Stephen Moylan had his moments up front after replacing Patrick Cronin - who, sidelined with an injury since the start of the season, looked way off the pace at full forward - at half time.

Apart from shooting a fine point, Moylan unhinged the Laois defence to set up Michael Cahalane in the dying seconds, but the advancing Eoin Reilly prevented the Bandon teenager from embellishing Cork's victory with a goal.

Overall, however, Alan Cadogan, who brought his personal tally to three points late on, was the most impressive forward on view on a night when work-rate was always going to be a more telling attribute than skill in the conditions.

Cork: D McCarthy (Ballymartle), S O'Neill (Bishopstown), S McDonnell (Glen Rovers), C Spillane (Castlelyons), L McLoughlin (Kanturk), C Joyce (0-1) (Na Piarsaigh), W Egan (0-1) (Kilbrin), M Ellis (Millstreet), P Haughney (Midleton), S Harnedy (0-2) (St Ita's), J Coughlan (Newtownshandrum), M O'Sullivan (Tracton), A Cadogan (0-3) (Douglas), P Cronin (Bishopstown), P Horgan (0-6, 5f) (Glen Rovers). Subs: S Moylan (0-1) (Douglas) for Cronin, ht, D Kearney (Sarsfields) for O'Sullivan, ht, R O'Shea (Carrigaline) for Harnedy, 50, C McCarthy (Sarsfields) for Haughney, 56, M Cahalane (Bandon) for Horgan, 61.

Laois: E Reilly, JA Delaney, B Campion, B Stapleton, J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, C Dunne, P Whelan, C Collier, D Palmer, J Purcell, S Maher (0-6f), N Foyle, C Dwyer, T Fitzgerald (0-1). Subs: W Hyland for Purcell, W Dunphy for P Whelan, R King for Foyle, PJ Scully for Dunphy (injured), J Campion for Dwyer.

Referee: C Browne (Galway)


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