Counihan eyes safety after Kelly hat-trick lifts Rebels
Cork 4-11 Down 0-10
Three goals from Patrick Kelly helped Cork to their first win of the season as they saw off Down by 13 points at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
Having drawn away to Armagh in their opener, Cork face Donegal next well-placed on three points, though manager Conor Counihan is not taking anything for granted.
"It's not too bad, but you still need to get maybe two more wins to make yourself secure in terms of relegation," he said. "I think, contrary to what a lot of people think, it's going to be nip-and-tuck all the way down to the finish."
Cork did more than enough here to get past Down, who scored the game's first three points but never led again after being pegged back, two Kelly goals and a Donncha O'Connor penalty ensuring that Cork led by 3-5 to 0-5 at half-time.
By that stage, the destination of the two points was more or less decided and the hosts ensured that they saw the game out safely.
Aside from Kelly, midfielder Alan O'Connor and Mark Collins at centre-forward put in fine shifts while Michael Shields once more did a fine man-marking job on Benny Coulter, meaning that the visitors' attack lacked focus.
While three Aidan Carr points, two frees, put them into an early lead, Donncha O'Connor and Mark Collins got Cork into the game before Shields levelled with a long-range effort and then Kelly side-stepped goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh before calmly finishing.
After a fine O'Driscoll point, Kelly struck for his second goal in the 28th minute after Pearse O'Neill fed the half-forward.
Conor Laverty and Aidan Branigan ended 23 scoreless minutes for Down, but a Fintan Goold point and O'Connor's penalty meant that nine points separated the sides at the break.
The teams traded points early in the second half, but if there were any doubts about the outcome they were ended in the 48th minute as Donncha O'Connor kept a Goold '45 in play and Kelly pounced for a soccer-style volley to the net.
Cork continued to add points at will with Pearse O'Neill, O'Driscoll and Donncha O'Connor on target.
Man of the Match -- Patrick Kelly (Cork)
Scorers -- Cork: P Kelly 3-0, D O'Connor 1-4 (1-0 pen, 3f), B O'Driscoll 0-2, M Shields, A O'Connor, P O'Neill, F Goold, M Collins 0-1 each. Down: A Carr 0-5 (4f), L Doyle 0-2 (2f), A Branigan, D Gordon, C Laverty 0-1 each.
CORK -- A Quirke 7; R Carey 7, E Cadogan 6, M Shields 8; G Canty 7, P Kissane 6, N O'Leary 7; A O'Connor 8, P O'Neill 7; F Goold 7, M Collins 8, P Kelly 8; B O'Driscoll 7, D O'Connor 7, F Lynch 5. Subs: P Kerrigan 6 for Lynch (25), E Cotter 7 for Cadogan (h-t), S Kiely 6 for O'Leary (54), L Shorten 6 for Goold, N Murphy 6 for A O'Connor (both 65).
DOWN -- B McVeigh 6; D Turley 6, D McCartan 5, O Costello 5; G McCartan 6, L Doyle 7, K Quinn 6; P Turley 6, D Gordon 7; D Hughes 6, A Carr 7, A Branigan 6; B Coulter 5, C Laverty 6, M Poland 5. Subs: C Garvey 6 for D McCartan (32), C Maginn 6 for Poland (h-t), K McKernan 6 for G McCartan, A McArdle 6 for P Turley (both 42), B McArdle 6 for Costello (52).
Ref -- R Hickey (Clare).