Sligo IT are this year's dream team, backboned by names like Kevin Cassidy, Paul Finlay and Nicky Joyce. However, they didn't play like favourites yesterday and when Cork IT eventually started believing they could win, in the second half, Sligo took a long time to answer the questions posed.
Bryan Sheehan stirred the Cork challenge with some well-taken frees early in the second half, but his performance will, unfairly, be coloured by the meek penalty effort in the second minute.
Cork IT needed to get off to a fast start, and when DJ Fleming was hauled to the ground by Sean Grimes, it looked like they would get it. However, Sheehan's effort was weak and to the right of Paul Durcan's post.
This quelled Cork's early enthusiasm and Sligo, playing up the noticeable slope, took full advantage. Nicky Joyce opened the scoring with his first of five points in the 5th minute, and followed it up two minutes later with another free. Sheehan atoned for the penalty miss with a free in the 17th minute, but there was little discernible pattern to the first half, evident by the fact it took 19 minutes to see a score from play, from the right boot of Mayo's Austin O'Malley.
In the bitter conditions, there was little to warm the cockles in the opening 30 minutes and both teams seemed relieved at the half-time whistle, with Sligo IT leading 0-5 to 0-2. And not having played particularly well to earn that lead. Cork were a different side in the second half. The side persisted with Sheehan, despite the south Kerry man missing a couple of early frees, and it began to yield dividends. Sheehan and DJ Fleming were causing Sligo all manner of problems, and even the calming presence of Cassidy didn't help Sligo.
Sheehan kicked a wonderful free, from 40 yards out, in the 40th minute to leave just a point between the teams, 0-6 to 0-5, and when Vincent Hurley scored an excellent point in the 46th minute, it looked like Cork IT would spring a surprise.
But there is so much class in this Sligo IT team. Finlay, who had a quiet game by his standards, stepped forward and nailed two 50s against a strong breeze.
Joyce pounced onto a loose ball to score a wonderful point from play. Christy Toye hit a scorcher of a curling point in the 51st minute.
The conditions probably didn't favour Sligo IT's short-passing game, but they dug in and got the result. "It was very tight, but we moved up a gear when we had to in the second half," Paul Finlay commented afterwards.
Cork IT will lament their number of missed chances. With 15 minutes left, they had a real opportunity to shock everyone in Belfast. However, when Sligo changed gears, they simply had no response.
Scorers: Sligo IT: N Joyce (0-5, 3 frees), P Finlay (0-4, 2 frees, 2 50s), C Toye, A O'Malley, D Ward (0-1 each). Cork IT: B Sheehan (0-4, all frees), DJ Fleming (0-2), D Breen, V Hurley (0-1 each).
: P. Durcan; A. Higgins, E. Magee, N. Magee; B. Dunnion, S Grimes, K. Cassidy; P. Harte, M. Moyles; C. Toye, P. Finlay, A. Moran; J. Davey, N. Joyce, A. O'Malley. Subs: D. Ward for Moran (41 mins), P. Kelly for Dunnion (46 mins).
: K. Murphy; M. Prout, R. Magannen, P. Sheehan; A. Sheehy, P. Nealon, E. O'Connor; M. Kelleher, N. O'Riordan; D. O'Connor, R. Keane, J. Gardiner; A. Morgan; B. Sheehan, D.J. Fleming. Subs: D. Breen for Kelleher (15 mins), V. Hurley for Morgan (h-t), S. Walsh for O'Connor (56 mins).
: P. McEnaney(Monaghan).