Cork 0-16 Down 0-15
Cork are the All-Ireland champions for the first time since 1990 after they got the better of Down at Croke Park this afternoon.
Like their semi-final win over Dublin, this was a triumph of patience and composure by the Rebels, who looked to be in trouble as they trailed by three points at half-time, but an assured display in the second period meant that they emerged with the win at the end by the narrowest of margins.
Daniel Goulding was the star for Conor Counihan’s side as he kicked nine points, with Donncha O’Connor also impressing while Michael Shields, Nicholas Murphy and Aidan Walsh were also excellent.
Ultimately the Down team, who were very good in the first half, could not cope with Cork upping their game in the second half, meaning that for the first time ever they are defeated in a decider.
At half-time though, the Ulster side led by 0-8 to 0-5, and things probably should have been even better for them as with four minutes to the break they were 0-7 to 0-2 in front.
Despite Cork being on top in midfield, they could not cope with the Down intensity all over the pitch as time and again a white-shirted player in possession was surrounded by two or three yellow jerseys.
In contrast, Cork were ponderous and cumbersome, not moving the ball quickly or efficiently enough.
They could have had a dream start, however, as Donncha O’Connor found Ciarán Sheehan in space with the goal at his mercy by Brendan McVeigh saved his shot and Daniel McCartan kept his follow-up off the line.
Daniel Goulding did put the game’s first score on the board and while Daniel Hughes and Paul McComiskey soon had the Mourne Men in the lead, when Goulding converted a second free on 13, the good looked set to be a tit-for-tat affair.
Instead, that point would prove to be Cork’s last for 17 minutes as Down really began to assert themselves.
Martin Clarke, one of a number of Down players playing nice footpasses, would score three points in this time as they went five clear overall, and has Hughes seen John Clarke free in front of goal before fisting over himself, things could have become even worse for Cork.
They did manage to find some rhythm as the interval neared though, powerful running by Paul Kerrigan and Aidan Walsh resulting in scores for Goulding and Donncha O’Connor, and there was just three in it as the sides turned around.
Despite McComiskey, with his third point, opening the second-half scoring, the introductions of Nicholas Murphy and Graham Canty lifted Cork and two frees by Daniel Goulding had the gap down to two, 0-9 to 0-7, by the 44th minute.
A beautiful individual score from Mark Poland restored Down’s three-point lead but the momentum was with Cork and O’Connor and Goulding again stepped up, both converting nice points to cut the gap to the minimum with 22 minutes left.
Sheehan’s fine point, after Kerrigan found him well with a quick free, tied the game up but Down were not gone out of the game, as exemplified by centre-back Kevin McKernan putting them back in the lead after Mark Poland played the ball to him with a nice pass.
Cork were a transformed side though and Donncha O’Connor levelled again before Kerrigan’s first point had them in front for the first time since the early stages, and they were allowed some breathing space as a pair of Goulding 45s made it 0-14 to 0-11.
Peter Fitzpatrick replied for Down, but Cork were not going to wilt, and O’Connor and Goulding again came up with the goods, though Benny Coulter’s first point of the game, in the 70th minute, made it 0-16 to 0-14.
Hughes’s third, punching over a Clarke sideline, meant that it would be a nervy end for Cork.
DOWN: B McVeigh; D Rafferty, D Gordon, D McCartan; C Garvey, K McKernan (0-1), D Rooney; P Fitzpatrick (0-1), K King; D Hughes (0-3), M Poland (0-1), B Coulter (0-1); P McComiskey (0-3), J Clarke (0-1), M Clarke (0-3f).
Subs: C Maginn for J Clarke (45), R Murtagh (0-1) for McComiskey (56), A Bannigan for King (64).
CORK: A Quirke; N O’Leary, E Cadogan, R Carey; M Shields, J Miskella, P Kissane; A O’Connor, A Walsh; P Kerrigan (0-1), P O’Neill, P Kelly; D Goulding (0-9, 0-4f, 0-3 45), D O’Connor (0-5, 0-2f), C Sheehan (0-1).
Subs: N Murphy for A O’Connor (half-time), C O’Neill for P O’Neill (56), D Kavanagh for Murphy (66), J Hayes for Kerrigan (69), F Goold for Kavanagh (70, injured).
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).