Cork firepower shoots down dogged Farney

IN recent times, victories for the Cork footballers have tended to revolve around the scoring exploits of their stars in the full-forward line.

It was the case in the All-Ireland semi-final and final, when Donncha O’Connor and Daniel Goulding carried the burden, and three weeks ago in Tralee they picked up where they left off.

Against Monaghan at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday, however, the All-Ireland champions showed that they can garner victories even without the inside line functioning fully, as the starting trio of Goulding, O’Connor and Ciarán Sheehan scored just two points from play between them.

Instead, it was the Rebel half-forward line, often criticised for not providing enough on the scoreboard, which played a big role in this win against the northern county, who rarely looked like taking the points but battled to the final whistle.

Pearse O’Neill, more associated with important goals, kicked five points from wing-forward; Fintan Goold raised two white flags and won a lot of ball in the air; and centre-forward Patrick Kelly scored 1-1 as well as twice being denied by Monaghan goalkeeper Mark Keogh.

In addition, Conor Counihan’s side had Eoin Cadogan and the inexperienced Denis O’Sullivan shining in defence, while Aidan Walsh dominated the skies, limiting the influence of Dick Clerkin for the most part.

For the manager, it was a case of the win not being as easy as some might have viewed it.

“All of you guys make it fierce handy altogether, I’ll have to tog ye out there next week!” he laughed.

“In the first half we had a lot of ball, and we probably didn’t kill off the game as much as we would have liked. We gave away a few soft scores and in fairness to Monaghan they never stopped coming back at us. We should have got more scores but we didn’t do it, and we faded a little, so there’s plenty room for work on that as well.”

With the exception of wing-backs O’Sullivan and Conor O’Driscoll, as well as goalkeeper Ken O’Halloran, the rest of the starting 15 played a part in the All-Ireland final win last September.

Counihan showed that he is not averse to experimentation, however, as Fiachra Lynch and Paul O’Flynn, both normally known as forwards, saw game-time in the second-half at corner-back and wing-back respectively.

“It’s just the way the game developed,” he said. “At this stage of the year you’re looking at every option and trying to give as many fellas as possible an opportunity.”

Despite the game being the first played at home by the first-choice panel since claiming Sam Maguire, just 1,375 were in attendance and early on it looked as if they would see a procession, Cork moving into an early three-point lead as Monaghan floundered, and it could have been more but for Keogh’s seventh-minute save from Kelly.

Duffy and Conor McManus opened the visitors’ account, however, and they took the lead on 14 as Doogan found Duffy in space to send a fine shot past O’Halloran.

That lead of 1-2 to 0-4 would last just three minutes, though, as Cork upped gears thanks to Walsh’s efforts around the middle. The big midfielder was also getting involved in the final sector but refrained from shooting, setting up Pearse O’Neill for three first-period points.

The second of these made it 0-7 to 1-3 and then Kelly put four between the teams, beating Keogh from a tight angle after Sheehan’s fisted attempt at a point went across the face of goal.

By half-time it was 1-9 to 1-5, but Monaghan improved after the restart and four points, two each from Duffy and Paul Finlay, helped them to close to just two by the 60th minute.

Cork never looked unduly troubled, despite Clerkin getting forward for two late Monaghan points, and Pearse and Colm O’Neill both raised late white flags to push the lead out to four again.

Monaghan’s Mark Downey did hit the bar with a long-range effort in injury time and Dessie Mone got a point to mark a good display for him, but Cork ensured they took third place in the table, leaving Monaghan boss Eamonn McEneaney to rue cheap turnovers.

“In the first half I think we were dispossessed something like eight times, which wasn’t good enough,” he said.

Scorers for Cork: P O’Neill 0-5, D Goulding 0-4 (0-3f), P Kelly 1-1, F Goold 0-2, C O’Driscoll, C O’Neill, D O’Connor 0-1 each.

Scorers for Monaghan: O Duffy 1-3, P Finlay 0-3 (0-2f), C McManus (0-1f), D Clerkin 0-2 each, C McGuinness, D Mone 0-1.

Subs for Cork: F Lynch 7 for Carey (half-time), P O’Flynn 6 for O’Driscoll (53), C O’Neill 6 for Goulding (61), N Murphy 6 for A O’Connor (68).

Subs for Monaghan: D Wylie 6 for McAdam, O Lennon 6 for McKenna (both half-time), T Freeman 6 for Duffy (52, inj), M Downey 6 for Turley (60), V Corey 6 for Finlay (69).

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).

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