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Rebels' rally before break was pivotal

So, Cork win their All-Ireland and we all agree they are both richly deserving of the title, and less importantly perhaps, the best team in the country for season 2010.

And that position at the top of the rankings once again underlines how vital the qualifiers are. We accept there are tweaks that would improve this second-chance championship (home venue in your county or province for provincial champions in the All-Ireland quarter-finals?) but the bottom line is: if they did not exist, Cork football would be in ruins today.

Losing to Kerry back in June would have spelled the end of the road for this team of great heart and character. In any other era it would be all over. And a quick check of the history book tells us the same fate awaited the other great champions, such as Galway, Tyrone and Kerry who used the Back Door to success. It is only fair and right the best team wins the championship and we therefore salute Cork -- a victory for perseverance and resilience.

Tony Davis, my colleague on The Sunday Game team, tells me Cork football rarely takes the easy route to success but instead must toil for many years in the championship field. They certainly stuck to that route on Sunday, squeezing out a win despite being in charge with 15 minutes to go.


They triumphed because of one major flourish, the couple of points just before half time took the horrible look off the scoreboard and must have led them to believe that, having played rubbish in the opening half, they would win if only they started to play in the second.

In fact, this period just before half time is a phase of the game greatly neglected by managers in the modern game. Emphasis is nearly always put on a big start or strong finish, but how many decent leads have been lost because your mind and body turned to the sanctuary of the half-time dressing room even though five minutes remained on the clock?

Cork managed three points in the final four minutes of the half and Down, having played all the ball, went in only three up. That had to be a little demoralising for the underdogs.

Nicholas Murphy arrived on the scene, even though Cork were already hammering Down in the middle of the field -- when you have riches I guess you must use them. The tally of kick outs won at that point was 17-6 in the Rebels favour!

And in the end, it was the magnificent free-taking by Cork that won this title. You will note the free kicks were taken off the ground, a style this column has spent a few seasons arguing for above the modern technique from the hands.

Donnacha O'Connor and Daniel Goulding were magnificent in this aspect of play but factor in too, the manner in which Marty Clarke and Benny Coulter were held to a single point from play between them.

And finally, spare a thought for the limitations injury and his defence placed upon James McCartan as manager.

With Ambrose Rogers out with injury and Dan Gordon required at number three, the Down manager found himself pairing his second-string midfielders against any two from the quartet of Alan O'Connor, Aidan Walsh, Derek Kavanagh and Nicholas Murphy -- all serious midfielders in their own right.

How were Down ever going to win a fair share in this sector?

In truth, they were cleaned out between the two 45s.

So, great champions in a great football championship season -- the best season in living memory. But don't think you can relax and reflect: the draw for 2011 is down for October 7 when the debate will start all over again!