Late flurry of goals sees Dublin topple battling Cork in Super 8s at Croke Park
All-Ireland SFC Super 8s Group 2: Dublin 5-18 Cork 1-17
Five-in-a-row chasers versus a team destined for Division 3 next spring. On paper, it sounded like a canter for the footballers of Dublin. The final scoreline might even suggest as much.
And yet, with the clock reading 58 minutes in this often intriguing Super 8s game at Croke Park tonight, Dublin only led Cork by a single goal – 2-14 to 1-14.
The Rebels had exploded from the traps into an early four-point lead only to find themselves six adrift at the break.
You sensed that was game over … but a 46th minute penalty, finished high and handsomely by Luke Connolly after Cian O’Sullivan had ended Ian Maguire’s goalward run, had breathed fresh life into Leeside legs.
And so it remained until almost the hour, the champions keeping the challengers at arm’s length, but no more, as a crowd of 30,214 looked on.
Then, just like that, Dublin went for the jugular. As Cork laboured from the demands of chasing those constantly moving blue jerseys, they leaked three goals in less than five minutes.
The late onslaught started on 62 minutes with Niall Scully finishing off the defence-shredding work of Jack McCaffrey (RTÉ’s Man of the Match) and the almost-as-influential Con O’Callaghan.
In the 66th minute, sub Paddy Small intercepted a short kickout from Mark White to release Ciarán Kilkenny; one on one with White, he didn’t blink.
To compound Cork’s misery, a brilliant diagonal pass from McCaffrey in the 67th minute put Brian Fenton galloping, unhindered, through the middle – and the midfielder roofed Dublin’s fifth goal in spectacular fashion.
There was just about time for Jim Gavin to introduce Jonny Cooper and James McCarthy in garbage time – another ominous sign of Dublin’s rude health entering the business end of summer.
Cooper hadn’t made any of the three match-day squads during Dublin’s latest gambol through the killing fields of Leinster. Meanwhile, McCarthy’s Super 8 involvement had been shrouded in doubt ever since he hobbled off with a knee injury during the provincial final against Meath.
Their presence for tonight’s Croke Park warm-up will have sent another chill through the various pretenders who harbour dreams of derailing the Drive for Five.
Whether Cork even belong among that select crew was already open to serious question before the 7pm throw-in.
Yet after six breathtaking minutes from Cork and curiously passive ones from the All-Ireland holders, we were starting to wonder.
Four points from play, via Kevin O’Driscoll, Seán White, the livewire Paul Kerrigan and Ruairí Deane, had the Rebels in early dreamland. In the midst of this opening blitzkrieg, O’Callaghan even thought he had earned a fourth minute Dublin penalty only for David Gough, having originally waved his arms wide, awarded a free-out instead after consulting with one of his umpires.
O’Callaghan, who would prove so pivotal to Dublin’s first half play, belatedly opened their account. Yet when Kerrigan landed his second of three first half points, the game was ten minutes old and Cork were four up again.
It couldn't last, surely? It didn't.
McCaffrey – whose dynamism coming from deep caused endless problems for the visitors – ignited the comeback with an 11th minute goal.
When McCaffrey initially went to ground under a challenge from Thomas Clancy, it briefly appeared that Dublin might belatedly earn a penalty. Instead, play carried on, McCaffrey got back to his feet and wrong-footed ‘keeper White with an angled shot.
With Brian Howard driving on Dublin from the middle-third, they were level by the 16th minute (through Cormac Costello) and then ahead after 18 minutes (via Brian Fenton).
And yet, for the second quarter, a battling Cork hung onto Sky Blue coat-tails. Entering injury-time, they were still only two adrift … but then Paul Mannion’s first point was followed by a killer second Dublin goal, some two minutes and 15 seconds into stoppage time.
McCaffrey’s long free, won by O’Callaghan, created the opening for Costello, who took the selfless option, handpassing across for Macauley to 'slam-dunk' from point-blank range.
Suddenly, it was a six-point game, 2-9 to 0-9. Game over? Not quite. But ultimately Dublin were never going to lose from there.
SCORERS - Dublin: D Rock 0-5 (3f, 1 '45'), C Kilkenny 1-2, C O'Callaghan 0-4, B Fenton 1-1, J McCaffrey, MD Macauley, N Scully 1-0 each, P McMahon, P Mannion 0-2 each, C Costello, J Small 0-1 each. Cork: L Connolly 1-3 (1-0 pen, 1 '45'), P Kerrigan, B Hurley (1f) 0-3 each, M Hurley 0-2, K O’Driscoll, S White, R Deane, M Collins (f), L O’Donovan, M Taylor 0-1 each.
Dublin: S Cluxton; D Byrne, M Fitzsimons, P McMahon; J Small, C O’Sullivan, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, MD Macauley; N Scully, C Kilkenny, B Howard; P Mannion, O’Callaghan, C Costello. Subs: D Rock for Costello (45), P Small for O’Callaghan (65), J Cooper for O’Sullivan (68), K McManamon for Mannion (68), E Murchan for McCaffrey (69), J McCarthy for Fenton (72).
Cork: M White; Thomas Clancy, K Flahive, J Loughrey; L Donovan, Tomás Clancy, M Taylor; I Maguire, K O’Driscoll; P Kerrigan, S White, R Deane; M Collins, B Hurley, L Connolly. Subs: M Hurley for Kerrigan (56), K O’Donovan for Loughrey (56), R O’Toole for S White (63), S Sherlock for Connolly (65), C Kiely for O’Donovan (66), J O’Rourke for Maguire (69).
Referee: D Gough (Meath).