Collins and Hurley on fire as Cork book place in Super 8s by hammering Laois
Cork 4-20 Laois 1-15
Maybe there is a Rebel rising coming after all. Cork footballers were worth every inch of this handsome round four qualifier victory at Thurles.
Their inside line of Castlehaven players, Mark Collins and Brian Hurley, did all the damage ending the match with 3-12 scored between them.
Hurley's brace of goals early in the second half killed the Laois challenge and then he would set up his club-mate for the third.
Coming on the back of such a strong showing against Kerry in last month's Munster Final, this display bodes well for Cork football - which was at such a low when the team was relegated to Division Three of the Allianz League in March.
It has to be said things get harder for Cork from here.
They now face Dublin and Tyrone on successive Saturdays in Croke Park and have to win one of those games to stay alive for their home tie against Roscommon on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
Cork won't need reminding of the trimming Tyrone dished out to them in the qualifiers in Portlaoise last summer.
How they fare this year against the Red Hands will give us an idea of where the team stands.
For Laois this was a desperately disappointing end to what has been a fine 18 months.
In that time they've won back-to-back promotions in the League and reached a Leinster Final.
But in this match they hit the wall.
Their defence was opened was too easily and the crowd of 6,114 at Semple Stadium knew well that Cork might have scored more than four goals over the 70minutes.
In truth, Laois had problems at the other end of the pitch too with Donie Kingston scoring all but 1-5 of their total.
The Arles-Killeen man is a super footballer, but the deeper you go in the Championship the more good forwards you need and Laois had not got them.
Maybe Division Two football next Spring will bring them on, and a few injured players will return too.
However a defeat on this scale cannot be ignored.
Laois have travelled a long way in these 18 months, they have just as far to go again to dine at Gaelic football's top table.
What would prove a one-sided game began as anything but with the teams swopping points as they probed each other's defences.
But there were nervous mistakes too. And that was understandable too for this was the round of no return.
You either qualified for the Super 8s, with three games to come against top teams, or your summer of 2019 was done.
Two players dominated the scoring - Cork's Collins ended the first half with six points while Kingston got one less for Laois.
Yet there were two key positions at which Cork's players were helping to build their half-time lead of five points.
The Rebels' midfield of Ian Maguire, Killian O'Hanlon and then his replacement Ronan O'Toole were winning plenty of ball and their full-forward Hurley had the better of his Laois marker Denis Booth.
Hurley helped himself to three points in the first period as Cork turned the screw on the midland outfit.
With all that going for them, Cork might have wanted to be further ahead at the break.
Chances to go for the jugular and get a goal had been rejected for the safer option of the point. Yet their half-time advantage was a good one and surely the basis of a winning one.
Hurley's goal, 30 seconds after the resumption, certainly made it that. It came from route one, with half-time sub Paul Kerrigan making an instant impact. His angled ball from out under the Kinnane Stand found Collins who transferred to Hurley and the Castlehaven man simply sidefooted the ball to the Laois net.
With that any hope of a contest evaporated.
That was even before Hurley got his second goal, a cracking finish from a tight angle after Cork full-back James Loughrey had sallied up the pitch to give him a fine pass.
There was time for 32-year-old Kerrigan to help himself to 1-1 as Cork ran out good winners.
They are back among the top Eight teams in the country. Now they will find out what it takes to be in the top Four!
Scorers - Cork: M. Collins 1-8 four f's B. Hurley 2-4 P. Kerrigan 1-1 R. Deane 0-2 S. Sherlock 0-2 1f K. O'Driscoll 0-1 R. O'Toole 0-1 L. O'Donovan 0-1
Laois - D. Kingston 0-10 8f's M. Scully 1-0 C. Murphy 0-1 E. Lowry 0-1 T. Collins 0-1 P.Kingston 0-1 E. O'Carroll 0-1
Cork - M. White; K. O'Donovan, J. Loughrey, K. Flahive; L. O'Donovan, Thomas Clancy, M. Taylor; I. Maguire, K. O'Hanlon; K. O'Driscoll, S. White, R. Deane; L.Connolly, B. Hurley, M. Collins. Subs- R. O'Toole for O'Hanlon 21mins (blood sub) P. Kerrigan for Connolly ht Tomas Clancy for Thomas Clancy 43mins A. Browne for Loughrey 46mins M. Hurley for B. Hurley 53mins S. Cronin for Maguire 61mins S. Sherlock for R. Deane 66mins
Laois - G. Brody; S. Attride, D. Booth, G. Dillon; T. Collins, R. Pigott, P. O'Sullivan; J. O'Loughlin, K. Lillis; D. O'Reilly, D. Kingston, M. Scully; E. Lowry, C. Murphy, P. Kingston. Subs- C. Begley for O'Sullivan ht D. Seale for O'Reilly and M. Barry for Murphy 46mins E. O'Carroll 52mins S. O'Flynn for Dillon 63mins
Referee - F. Kelly (Longford)