Dublin 0-21 Cork 0-10
Dessie Farrell got it spot on. He rated his team’s performance as a six and a half out of ten.
It wasn’t vintage Dublin by any standards against a team that barely survived in Division 2 this spring.
Having scored seven goals in their three games in Leinster their failure to create a single chance was disconcerting with the All-Ireland semi-final less than two weeks away.
The absence of the injured Con O’Callaghan robbed the attack of its vocal point. As a result Dublin largely abandoned the kicking game which had been so effective in the Leinster series.
But credit to the Cork defence superbly marshalled by sweeper Sean Powter for denying them even a sniff of a goal. Cork boss John Cleary acknowledged their first priority was to deny Dublin the oxygen of early goals.
“We looked at the last three games they had in the Leinster Championship. They were over after 20 minutes.”
“We did set out that at least we’d stay in the game some way down the stretch to give us some bit of a chance in the second half.
“We couldn’t let them in for goals. If they got in for goals, it would have been a long day. So, at least that was some bit of a positive.”
Of course to have any chance of discommoding Dublin, the underdogs need to be clinical – but they failed miserably.
The statistics are damning: Cork only converted six of the 19 chances they created from open play and missed three kickable placed balls.
Meanwhile, Dean Rock kicked Dublin’s nine placed balls and they converted 12 of the 21 chances they created in open play.
With three points between the sides at the break (0-10 to 0-7) theoretically Cork still had a chance. But Dublin stepped on the gas in the third quarter turning the screw on Michéal Martin’s restarts.
Dublin outscored the Rebels 0-6 to 0-0 in the first twenty minutes of the second half to wrap up a 13th successive semi-final appearance.
“There was a nice breeze there and we just couldn’t get a grip in the third quarter. Dublin pushed up on our kickouts and we couldn’t get to grips with it.
“Ultimately that was the complete winning and losing of the game. In the third quarter we just couldn’t make the ball stick and Dublin powered on, and we had no answer,” said Cleary.
No soon as the final whistle sounded on a unseasonally cold evening in Croke Park that the focus switched to the chances of Dublin’s captain James McCarthy and vice-captain Con O’Callaghan being available for the semi-final.
Farrell declined to discuss the precise nature of their injuries and he didn’t strike a particularly optimistic note about their chances of being match fit by Sunday week.
“It’s pretty much a race against time now. We have two weeks. To be picking up an injury now at this time of year is tough. We’re all hands on deck in terms of our medical staff and in terms of trying to get the lads right.”
Michael Fitzsimons captained the side but Dublin’s two-man fullback line struggled to cope with Steven Sherlock and Brian Hurley who repeatedly exposed Eoin Murchan in the first half.
With Cork deploying a two-man full forward line, Lee Gannon relished his more advanced role, scoring two excellent points. Midfielders Brian Fenton and Tom Lahiff chipped in with 0-3 from play.
But Dublin need goals to energise their fans on Hill 16. Their absence and the inevitably of the outcome meant that there was a Groundhog Day feeling about the game.
“It’s about the result. A major step-up is required,” said Farrell.
“The first half obviously wasn’t what we would have wanted. We picked it up in the second half. But probably the four-week lay-off didn’t help.
“It took us a while to shake the cobwebs but we strung some good passages of play together in the second half.
“We knew Cork were going to dig in and obviously they’re a proud county with great tradition down there. They didn’t surprise us with anything they did.
“But we just couldn’t get to the pace of it in the way we would have liked. Definitely they were causing us problems as well, they kicked a lot of wides themselves.
“We were happy enough to get to half time and have a chat and move back out, and thankfully the second half was a little bit better,” said Farrell.
For Cork this championship was a learning experience which now needs to be built on.
“Hopefully they will be in a better position to do something in the coming years because it’s a relatively young team. But that doesn’t matter if they can’t learn from what happened here and from what happened against Kerry,” said Cleary.
Scorers – Dublin: D Rock 0-9 (8f, 1 m), C Kilkenny 0-3, B Fenton, L Gannon 0-2, C Costello, T Lahiff , P Small, S Bugler, A Byrne 0-1 each. Cork: S Sherlock (2f, 1m), C O’Mahony (2f) 0-3 each, B Hurley 0-2, E McSweeney, J O’Rourke 0-1 each
Dublin – E Comerford 7; L Gannon 8, E Murchan 6, M Fitzsimons 6; J Cooper 8, B Howard 7, J Small 7; B Fenton 8, T Lahiff 7; N Scully 8, S Bugler 6, C Kilkenny 8; C Costello 6, D Rock 7, P Small 7. Subs: L O’Dell 6 for Bugler (53), C Murphy 6 for Cooper (56), A Byrne 7 for P Small (61), E O’Donnell for Murchan (67), D Byrne for J Small (70)
Cork – M Martin 7; P Ring 6, M Shanley 7, K O’Donovan 7; C Powter 8, M Taylor 7, R Maguire 7; J Cooper 6, I Maguire 7; C O’Callaghan 7, E McSweeney 6, J O’Rourke 6; C O’Mahony 6, B Hurley 8, S Sherlock 7. Subs: D Dineen 6 for McSweeney (48), S Meehan 6 for Ring (48), B Hayes 6 for Sherlock (54), C Kelly for Cooper 6 (56), B Murphy for O’Callaghan (70)
Ref: S Hurson (Tyrone)