They could have been more convincing winners but for substitute Cian McCarthy failing to put away an injury-time penalty which he had won himself.
Stating his ambition is to win enough games to ensure their survival in the group, Offaly manager Joe Dooley still took a lot of positives out of the defeat. “It’s not too easy to come down and beat Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, it’s a kind of a fortress,’’ he commented.
“The save was probably a turning point. If that had gone in I think it would have gone down to the wire. We are short a good few players at present and our strength in depth is probably not near as good as Cork’s. But, overall, for commitment, effort and belief you couldn’t fault the lads.’’
While suggesting a few players mightn’t have been pleased with their form, Cork boss Denis Walsh was more than satisfied with the outcome, recognising the importance of a good performance in advance of their visit to Nowlan Park. “It’s crucial to start well,’’ he said. “You need to win two or three games, be comfortable and then get into your stride. We have Kilkenny next Sunday and they won last night. They had Tipp and Cork in the first two games, so they knew they had to hit the ground running as well.’’
Operating in the unusual position of wing-forward, Tom Kenny powered Cork into an early lead with a goal after 50 seconds and while Offaly were a little slower to start, they were to prove more than competitive in the first-half in which they led three times between the 11th and 26th minutes.
Once Cork got into their stride, some of their better passages of play featured delightful inter-passing movements, with the O’Connor brothers and Paudie O’Sullivan to the forefront, along with Patrick Horgan — and at other stages the skilful Pa Cronin and Cathal Naughton. And it was no coincidence that O’Sullivan and Horgan, along with Ben O’Connor each finished with four points to their credit.
Offaly, like Cork giving debuts to two players, were gaining some good possession at midfield until Jerry O’Connor hit form and while their defence was stretched at times, they showed a lot of penetration, with Brian Carroll excelling on the right wing and Shane Dooley always a threat inside. However, Cork’s goal was seldom under threat, with the solid play of dual star Eoin Cadogan (captain for the day) reflecting the confidence he has gained from playing with the All-Ireland winning football team last season.
And, in front of him Marc Ellis turned in another workmanlike display against the crafty Joe Bergin, who was also very productive in a visiting attack noteworthy for the fact that Cathal Parlon was withdrawn to operate as a third midfielder.
In front 1-12 to 1-11 at the break, Cork were more successful in imposing their will on the game in the second half. They were two points clear when Nash deprived Shane Dooley of a goal nearing the three-quarters stage and Offaly had no answer to a scoring sequence of five points in a six-minute period. Ultimately, that ensured victory.
* A minute’s silence was observed in memory of the people who lost their lives in the Cork Airport crash, as well as the late Mick Spain, who had a lifetime involvement in the GAA in Offaly and Cork under-21 footballer Rory O’Connor.
Scorers for Cork: P. O’Sullivan 0-4; P. Horgan 0-4 (three frees); B. O’Connor 0-4 (two frees, one sideline); T. Kenny 1-0; P. Cronin 0-3; C. Naughton 0-2; J. O’Connor, B. Murphy and N. McCarthy 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: S. Dooley 0-6 (five frees); B. Carroll 0-5; C. Egan 1-0; J. Bergin 0-2; S. Kelly and S. Wynne 0-1 each.
Subs for Cork: K. Murphy for Horgan and N. McCarthy for Naughton (53); L. MacLochlainn for Egan (58); C. McCarthy for Cronin (63).
Subs for Offaly: D. Hayden for Rigney (inj. 41); K. Connolly for Kelly (49); K. Brady for Wynne (53).
Referee: M. Wadding (Waterford).
* Attendance: 1,406.