Wednesday 21 February 2018

Rebels show mettle in Salthill

Apart from a brief period early in the second half, Cork looked the better team in this NFL Division 2 clash. They certainly performed with far greater purpose and assurance before the break when failure to make the most of their opportunities prevented them from punishing the Connacht champions to the full.

Cork 1-11 Galway 0-14

They clocked up nine wides in the opening half, while they were out of luck with an early goal chance as well, with Aidan Walsh having a shot deflected out for a '45 by Galway keeper Rory Lavelle.

As it was, Cork turned over leading by 1-3 to 0-5, but they came under serious pressure for the first time on the resumption as Galway hit the ground running to reel off four points on-the-trot inside 43 minutes.

That Cork managed to arrest their slide is testimony to the character shown by the team on the day and, all in all, there was much to admire about their performance in what was always going to be a tricky opening league assignment on Galway's home patch in Pearse Stadium.

No doubt frustration was the over-riding emotion in the Cork camp at the finish, especially in view of Colm O'Neill's failure to tilt the issue in their favour from a scoreable free at the death.

It was an untypical lapse by the Ballyclough man, who, sprung from the bench in the 45th minute, had spearheaded Cork's bid for victory in the second half, slotting over four points from play, two of which were truly out of the top drawer.

Had he been on from the start, the likelihood is that Cork would have built up an unassailable advantage before the interval, such was the extent of the control they enjoyed..

With both sides getting bodies behind the ball in numbers when they didn't have possession building from the back was very much the order of the day in the first half and Cork were clearly more adept in this regard.

They moved the ball about with far greater composure and fluency than the Tribesmen, whose shortcomings were underlined when a sloppy turnover led to the opening for the game's only goal in the 19th minute.

It was claimed by Paul Kerrigan, who finished with style following a slick raid involving Luke Connolly, Aidan Walsh, Sean Powter and Mark Collins. Connolly adopted a deep role from corner-forward, and, along with Mark Collins, he impressed with his kick-passing as Cork displayed the facility to prise out the openings with commendable ease and regularity.

Paul Kerrigan, operating alongside league debutant Niall Coakley in a two-man full-forward line, was a constant threat near goal, but faulty shooting meant he promised far more than he achieved after his excellent strike left Cork leading by 1-1 to 0-2.

Aided by a brace of points from Mark Collins, they were 1-3 to 0-3 to the good with 30 minutes gone, and, playing into a fresh breeze, it seemed as if their first half profligacy was a luxury they'd be well able to afford at that juncture.

Aidan Walsh, Ruairi Deane and Ian Maguire were all working hard to give them an edge around the middle, while their defence shaped up well as a unit, with corner-back Kevin Crowley performing with the utmost efficiency in this sector.

The picture changed dramatically after half time, however, as Galway snatched the initiative for a spell, thanks primarily to improved play from midfielders Paul Conroy and Michael Day, with Michael Daly also making his presence following his introduction at centre-forward.

They were unable to keep the momentum going after moving three points ahead, as Cork rallied to draw level before ace free-taker Barry McHugh nudged Galway in front again in the 54th minute.

Three minutes later, Luke Connolly, put clean through by Mark Collins, squandered a golden opportunity to put Cork back in the driving seat, but they looked odds-on to prevail after forging two points clear two minutes into stoppage time.

Fed by John O'Rourke, who also made a major contribution in attack after being introduced in the 46th minute, Colm O'Neill triggered off a late flourish by the visitors, with Ruairí Deane gathering the resultant kick-out to fire over another point before an exquisite score from O'Neill seemed sufficient to seal the deal.

To their credit, Galway hit back with points from substitutes Cillian McDaid and Cathal Sweeney, but they had good cause to count their blessings after O'Neill failed to break the deadlock with his late effort from a free.

Teams & Scorers

Cork: C O'Neill 0-5 (1f), P Kerrigan 1-0, M Collins 0-2, L Connolly, N Coakley (f), J O'Rourke and R Deane 0-1 each

Galway: B McHugh 0-6 (f), D Cummins 0-3, D Kyne, P Conroy, G O'Driscoll, C McDaid and C Sweeney 0-1 each

Cork: R Price (O'Donovan Rossa); K Crowley (Millstreet), T Clancy (Clonakilty), J McLoughlin (Kanturk); C Dorman (Bishopstown), J Loughrey (Mallow), T Clancy (Fermoy); A Walsh (Kanturk), R Deane (Bantry Blues); I Maguire (St Finbarr's), M Collins (Castlehaven), S Powter (Douglas); N Coakley (St Judes, Dublin), L Connolly (Nemo Rangers), P Kerrigan (do.) Subs: C O'Neill (Ballyclough) for Coakley, 45, J O'Rourke (Carbery Rangers) for Powter, 46, Brian O'Driscoll (Tadgh MacCarthaigh) for Dorman, 52, D O'Connor (Ballydesmond) for Connolly, 59, Barry O'Driscoll (Nemo Rangers) for Maguire, 67, G Murphy (Castletownbere) for Kerrigan, 72

Galway: R Lavelle; D Kyne, D Walsh, L Burke; G O'Donnell, G Bradshaw, J Heaney; P Conroy, M Day; T Flynn, D Comer, E Brannigan; D Cummins,B McHugh, S Armstrong Subs: C McDaid for Brannigan, 44, M Daly for Armstrong, 46, E Tierney for Flynn, 52, C Sweeney for Heaney, 56, P Cooke for Day, 71

Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone).

The game in 60 seconds

Main Man

He wasn't pressed into action until the 45th minute, but Colm O'Neill made an indelible impact on the proceedings, unveiling his rich array of skills to post four points from play. In the circumstances, it would have been singularly appropriate had he converted the late free to earn Cork a win.

Key Moment

Had Luke Connolly availed of a clear-cut goal chance in the 57th minute, it would almost certainly have grievously undermined Galway's resistance and given Cork the impetus to drive on to victory.

Talking Point

While Cork will be disappointed that they didn't collect both points, the result stretched the county's unbeaten run to nine league games against Galway, whose last win over the Rebels occurred in 1992.

Ref Watch

Tyrone's Sean Hurson made a few questionable calls, but his overall handling of the game left little to be desired.


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