Thursday 22 August 2019

McCarthy ready for Rebels to take on 'big boys'

Cork 4-20 Laois 1-15

Mark Collins scores Cork's third goal against Laois last night. Photo: Matt Browne
Mark Collins scores Cork's third goal against Laois last night. Photo: Matt Browne

John Brennan

Maybe there is a Rebel rising coming after all. Cork footballers were worth every inch of this handsome round four qualifier victory in Thurles last night.

Their inside line of Castlehaven players, Mark Collins and Brian Hurley did all the damage, ending the match with 3-12 between them.

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Cork's Ronan O'Toole in action against John O'Loughlin of Laois. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Cork's Ronan O'Toole in action against John O'Loughlin of Laois. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

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.

However, it must be said that things get harder for Cork from here. They will 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.

Laois manager John Sugrue. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Laois manager John Sugrue. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

How they fare this year against the Red Hands will give us an idea of where the team stands. And that was on the mind of Rebels manager Ronan McCarthy.

"We're stepping in against the big boys now, we know the challenge ahead of us with Dublin next Saturday," McCarthy said.

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"But I'm so proud of these lads. To come from where we were after four games of the League, with just one point to our name, is a hell of an effort.

"We got a bit sloppy in the second half. And I'm annoyed about that because I'm always talking to the lads about doing the right things no matter what the scoreline is, and we stepped away from that in the second half."

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 all too easily and the crowd of 6,114 in Semple Stadium knew well that Cork might have scored more than four goals over the 70 minutes.

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 didn't have them last night.

Maybe Division Two football next spring will bring them on, and a few injured players will return too. However, a defeat on this scale simply cannot be ignored.

Laois have travelled a long way in these 18 months, but they have just as far to go again to dine at Gaelic football's top table. "We thought there was an angle or two to work on in the second half with regard to gathering ourselves and trying to get back into the game," said Laois boss John Sugrue.

"But they sucker-punched us twice and there's lots of things (to look at) with regards to pressing the ball out the field, winning our own kick-outs, and the pressure on their inside line. The blame lies with ourselves."

So how do you reflect on the year?

"We made progress in the League, we made no progress in the Championship, because this is the same stage we went out last year," added Sugrue with great honesty. "We worked hard but there's a lot more to work on."

Cork could have led by more at half-time but Hurley's goal, 30 seconds after the resumption, realistically ended any doubt about the outcome.

Scorers - Cork: M Collins 1-8 (0-4f), B Hurley 2-4, P Kerrigan 1-1, R Deane 0-2, S Sherlock 0-2 (1f), K O'Driscoll, R O'Toole, L O'Donovan 0-1 each. Laois: D Kingston 0-10 (0-8f), M Scully 1-0, C Murphy, E Lowry, T Collins, P Kingston, E O'Carroll 0-1 each.

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 (21, blood sub), P Kerrigan for Connolly (ht), Tomas Clancy for Thomas Clancy (43), A Browne for Loughrey (46), M Hurley for B Hurley (53), S Cronin for Maguire (61), S Sherlock for R Deane (66).

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 (46), E O'Carroll for S O'Flynn (52), S O'Flynn for Dillon (63).

Referee: F Kelly (Longford).

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