Dubs overwhelm Rebels in second half to reach league decider
Dublin completed a remarkable second half turnaround as Jim Gavin’s team reached a second successive National League Final.
Trailing by eight points at half time, they stunned Cork to eventually run out seven point winners and laid a serious marker for the season ahead.
Cork manager Brian Cuthbert will be disappointed with the second half collapse, where they scored just four points, but will take solace from an impressive opening period where his new-look side overran the reigning All-Ireland champions.
Paddy Andrews opened the scoring for Dublin but it was the Rebels who quickly took control of the encounter, blitzing the Dublin defence from the outset.
Brian Hurley got the first of his five points from play in the opening period before Colm O’Neill, a late replacement for John Hayes, blasted to the net. He quickly added a point as Dublin struggled with the pace and power of the Rebel attacks.
A second goal came just four minutes later when Dublin failed to deal with a high ball as Mark Collins lurked on the edge of the square. The ensuing mix-up between Stephen Cluxton and defender Nicky Devereux, who appeared to get the final touch, saw the ball trickle into the net.
Hurley was the stand-out performer in a bristling attack and when Collins tacked on another point after 13 minutes, Cuthbert’s side raced into a nine-point lead.
Andrews and Paul Flynn responded for a shell-shocked Dublin side that slowly began to enjoy more possession.
The intricate passing from deep was another feature of Cork’s forays into opposition territory, with Hurley and Daniel Goulding finishing off moves after pin-point accuracy from their teammates.
Dublin manager Jim Gavin responded by introducing Eoghan O’Gara into the action for Jason Whelan before the half hour mark and he put his name on the score sheet almost immediately.
Fittingly it was Hurley who claimed the final score of the first half to ensure Cork led by eight points at the interval.
The second half began in a similar fashion to the first, with Jamie O’Sullivan breaking forward from defence to fire over and Goulding extending the lead to 10 points.
The lifeline Dublin required had an element of fortune to it. Philly McMahon’s attempted point hit the post and Michael Darragh Macauley finished well to breathe life into Dublin’s attempts to make it to back-to-back league titles. That was the catalyst for a complete turnaround on Jones Road.
The free-flowing football was best demonstrated by the fact it took until the 40th minute of the contest for the first converted free, with Goulding restoring Cork’s healthy lead.
A welcome sight for the Hill was the reappearance of Bernard Brogan in a blue jersey when he replaced Kevin McManamon 10 minutes after the break, quickly hitting over two frees for the perfect introduction into the contest.
Paddy Kelly, wearing the unfamiliar number six on his jersey, pointed for Cork to end a barren run of 10 minutes without a score for Cork. It was to prove their last of the game, despite the fact there was 20 minutes still left on the clock.
The momentum was with the reigning league champions and points from Brogan, Jonny Cooper and the ever-impressive Macauley saw the Dubs move into the lead as Cork had no answer to Dublin’s attacking weaponry.
In just 15 second half minutes the Dubs turned a five point deficit into a five point lead when Diarmuid Connolly coolly tucked away a penalty after James Loughrey had fouled Brogan.
The Rebels simply had no answer to the repeated onslaughts and the full-time whistle could not come soon enough, with Brogan and Macauley especially to the fore.
Ciaran Reddin and Brogan finished off the scoring as they ran out convincing seven point winners and will now play Derry in the League decider.
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