Tuesday 23 January 2018

Harnedy's late winner completes stunning Rebel rally

Inspirational Horgan on fire as Cork come from 12 points down to book league final place

Cork’s Luke O’Farrell gets a pass away under pressure from Dublin’s Johnny McCaffrey during their Allianz NHL semi-final in Nowlan
Cork’s Luke O’Farrell gets a pass away under pressure from Dublin’s Johnny McCaffrey during their Allianz NHL semi-final in Nowlan

It's hard to know which lofty peak that Dublin will take their cue from to measure the scale of their collapse in this League semi-final in Nowlan Park yesterday.

Cork 1-27 Dublin 2-23

They could start with the 12 points (2-9 to 0-3) they found themselves clear by when David O'Callaghan carved through the Cork defence with remarkable ease for their second goal on 18 minutes.

Maybe the 10-point cushion enjoyed around the 40-minute mark is a more appropriate point to commence the self-examination.

But inevitably they will be first drawn to the seven-point barrier they were defending on 61 minutes when Liam Rushe knocked over his third point after a decent interchange between Paul Schutte and David Treacy.

At that point Dublin just didn't look vulnerable to a Cork side that was only scratching the surface with their attacking penetration.

Patrick Horgan's accuracy badly let him down in his previous national semi-final appearance, the All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary last August. But this time he was almost flawless, landing 17 points, 12 from frees and two more from '65s'. He missed just two shots, one from a free, in a most impressive display of marksmanship.


Without it Cork would have been much too far adrift to strike late as they did, Seamus Harnedy's winner from Conor Lehane's cross-field pass in the last passage of play completing the comeback.

From Lehane's 31st-minute point to Aidan Walsh's 57th-minute strike Cork didn't have another scorer outside Horgan as he hit 11 consecutive points.

Still, they have to be credited for pressing to the finish as they did in a game that they were always chasing.

Until Harnedy, an impressive focal point for the Cork attack, closed it out they were behind for every minute except the first when Lehane opened the scoring.

For so long, Horgan and Harnedy apart, they looked as detached and out of sorts as they had last August and maybe this was a catalyst for eventually prompting such a finish.

To lose a League semi-final with a similar capitulation to last August would have asked many serious questions about this team. Now they have case history of deep character to draw upon again and it's Dublin who bear the scars.

Dublin had the oxygen of an early Mark Schutte goal to nourish them, the Cuala man's posting to full-forward reaping early dividends when he took advantage of Liam Rushe's puck-out claim to round Damien Cahalane and pick his spot past Anthony Nash.

Dublin have got a lot from this League but failing to nail down their dominance will needle away at them in the coming weeks.

Their indiscipline to concede so many frees within range for Horgan to score is another issue.

They are entitled to feel aggrieved at the application of hurling's new advantage rule.

Twice in the last quarter referee James Owens applied the rule when first Niall McMorrow and then Liam Rushe were fouled. But as play was allowed to develop, Schutte and O'Callaghan were wide with shots that were harder to convert than the frees would have been.

Had Paul Ryan guided those two frees between the posts would we have been looking at a different result?

A rule that works well in Gaelic football clearly doesn't give the same advantage in hurling, given the rate of conversion of frees, and it's one that is sure to provide future talking points.

Cork seemed discommoded by the changes they made beforehand, the withdrawal of Mark Ellis and Cormac Murphy prompting switches to their selection across four lines.

Aidan Walsh wasn't comfortable early on at centre-back, while William Kearney had his hands full with O'Callaghan in the corner.

Dublin's aerial dominance was quite marked through Keaney and Rushe especially and with wind advantage they had eased into a 1-9 to 0-3 when O'Callaghan cut through a tame defence, throwing his pursuers off with an elaborate spin before crisply dispatching beneath Nash.

Horgan slipped over three consecutive points but the threat to Dublin still didn't manifest with Peter Kelly and Paul Schutte locking down impressively in the full-back line.

Kelly's 33rd-minute interception, as Horgan attempted to guide a pass to Alan Cadogan that would surely have yielded a goal, was one of the pivotal moments of the half, made all the more significant when Ryan, a late replacement beforehand for Danny Sutcliffe who aggravated a hamstring in the warm-up, instantly landed a score at the other end.

Dublin's 2-15 to 0-12 interval lead eroded to four points at one stage but they weathered that brief storm with points from substitute Ben Quinn, Ryan from a free and Rushe within four minutes.

With Rob O'Shea getting more involved at midfield, Cork began to get a bit more momentum but ultimately it was Paudie O'Sullivan's 64th-minute goal from Bill Cooper's lay-off which changed the dynamic, energising the Cork contingent in the 16,445 crowd.

They went hunting for more and Cian O'Callaghan needed to be vigilant to interrupt substitute Anthony Spillane as he bore down on goals two minutes later. Horgan closed the gap to the minimum with three unanswered points to intensify the finish.

For all Keaney's dominance, however, it didn't put his direct opponent Conor Lehane out of the game and he was instrumental in pushing Cork over the line, grabbing a fourth point to level before setting up Harnedy for his winner.

Man of the match: P Horgan (Cork)

scorers - Cork: P Horgan 0-17 (12fs, 2 65s), C Lehane 0-4, S Harnedy 0-3, P O'Sullivan 1-0, A Cadogan, L O'Farrell, A Walsh all 0-1 each . Dublin: P Ryan 0-7 (4fs), D O'Callaghan, M Schutte 1-3 each, L Rushe 0-3, C Keaney, D Treacy, J McCaffrey all 0-2 each, B Quinn 0-1.

Cork - A Nash 7; S O'Neill 7, D Cahalane 5, W Kearney 5; L McLoughlin 6, A Walsh 6, S McDonnell 7; D Kearney 6, R O'Shea 7; C Lehane 8, S Harnedy 8, B Cooper 6; A Cadogan 6, L O'Farrell 7, P Horgan 9. Subs: P O'Sullivan 7 for Cadogan (50), A Spillane for O'Farrell (63), B Lawton for Kearney (66)

Dublin - G Maguire 8; C O'Callaghan 6, P Kelly 8, P Schutte 8; S Durkin 6, C Crummey 5, C Keaney 8; J McCaffrey 6, N McMorrow 7; R O'Dwyer 5, L Rushe 7, P Ryan 7; D O'Callaghan 8, M Schutte 7, D Treacy 6. Subs: B Quinn 6 for McCaffrey (53), C Cronin for O'Dwyer (62), O O'Rorke for Treacy (67).

Ref - J Owens (Wexford)

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