IN THE end, there were no abacus required to unravel the climax to yesterday’s NFL Division 2.
The word from Navan, where Kildare drew with Meath, favoured Cork but the Leesiders’ dismissal of Armagh at Páirc Uí Chaoimh was the key reason they finished in the top two in the Division 2 logjam.
On a sunny afternoon, 2,006 punters filed through the turnstiles to watch Cork produce a display characterised by high work-rate and precise point-kicking that Armagh simply could not match.
Promotion to Division 1 and a league final showdown with Monaghan in two weeks beckons. After a glum post-match attitude in Scotstown two weeks ago, Cork boss Conor Counihan was more satisfied this time.
“We were focused for this game because we were very disappointed with our last performance. We looked for a reaction and we got it. For whatever reason, home advantage has proven to be a big thing in this league.
“We weren’t too bothered with what was going on elsewhere. We’ve got promotion now but more importantly the league final means another game for us now. That’s the biggest plus.”
Armagh manager Peter McDonnell had made the long trek south with his team’s promotion pulse still beating, but their lethargy and Cork’s energy killed off those hopes.
“We’re disappointed with that. It was always going to be difficult having travelled so far but we’d an expectation that we could perform. But we were flat and failed to match the pace Cork showed. After the goal we should have moved on, but we failed to do that.”
The Cork IT effect was seen again, with Ray Carey, Paul Flynn and Paul Kerrigan showing they can carry their Sigerson Cup form to a higher plateau. Carey and Flynn were competent in everything they did, while Kerrigan was sensational, scorching through for five points.
Counihan will also have been pleased by Patrick Kelly dictating several plays from centre-forward, Ger Spillane executing a few brilliant steals and a memorable second-half cameo from John Hayes. Donncha O’Connor got a yellow card in the 38th minute, but his replacement hit four stylish points.
In a week where Armagh stalwarts Francie Bellew, Paul McGrane and Paddy McKeever all shuffled off into retirement, the current Orchard County team were reminded that life without them will be a struggle.
Hanging in at 0-3 apiece by the 16th minute, Armagh’s defence was already overworked as Cork wove pretty attacking patterns; despite Charlie Vernon’s fighting qualities, midfield did not yield a profitable return. That meant Stevie McDonnell and Ronan Clarke were largely idle.
Cork stormed into a commanding lead before half-time with Kerrigan, O’Connor and Daniel Goulding spearheading the scoring drive and 0-9 to 0-4 was a fine interval lead. The incoming news of Monaghan’s blitzkrieg job on Laois meant scoring margins looked critical, and Cork emerged for the second half like a side primed to build rather than consolidate. Kerrigan and a Hayes brace shoved them 0-12 to 0-5 ahead, but then they hit their only rough patch in the game.
In the 52nd minute a loose pass by Graham Canty was seized on by Ronan Clarke and he played in McDonnell who netted at the second attempt. McDonnell had broken through twice after half-time, only for Alan Quirke to spread himself to thwart the Killeavey man, but Cork showed impressive credentials from there on.
Goulding, Hayes (2), James Masters and Kelly all pulled points from the top-drawer in a rapid response as Cork sailed into clearer waters with a 0-17 to 1-5 lead by the 60th minute.
With victory secured and an improved scoring difference Cork could afford to relax, and while they shipped points to Brian Mallon and McDonnell, Kerrigan brought the curtain down in style with two late scores.
Scorers for Cork: P Kerrigan 0-5, J Hayes 0-4 (0-1f), D Goulding 0-3, D O’Connor 0-2 (0-1f), N Murphy, P O’Flynn, A O’Connor, J Masters, P Kelly 0-1 each.
Scorers for Armagh: S McDonnell 1-2 (0-2f), T Kernan 0-3 (0-1f, 0-1 ‘45), B Mallon 0-2.
CORK: A Quirke; R Carey, M Shields, A Lynch; G Canty, G Spillane, N O’Leary; A O’Connor, N Murphy: P O’Flynn, P Kelly, P Kerrigan; D Goulding, J Masters, D O’Connor.
Subs: B O’Regan for O’Leary (yellow) (16), J Hayes for D O’Connor (yellow) (38), F Goold for A O’Connor (63), A Ó hAilpín for Masters (67).
ARMAGH: P Hearty; B Donaghy, A Mallon, B Shannon; A Kernan, C McKeever, T McClelland; J Lavery, C Vernon; J Feeney, A O’Rourke, B Mallon; S McDonnell, R Clarke, T Kernan. Subs: JP Donnelly for McClelland (26), K O’Rourke for A O’Rourke (yellow) (38), V Martin for Lavery (53), S Kernan for Feeney (55), F Moriarty for Shannon (62), R Henderson for Clarke (65).
Referee: M. Deegan (Laois).
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