Gritty Rebels on spring roll

The 2010 All-Ireland champions maintained their status as league specialists while the 2011 kingpins’ interest in springtime endeavours are terminated.

Those were the outcomes to be digested after yesterday’s Division 1 league encounter in Páirc Uí Chaoimh where 3,707 patrons witnessed an Easter Sunday game that lacked the thunder of championship fare but still revealed enough to confirm both Cork and Dublin can travel far this summer.

Cork’s stab at a four-in-a-row of sorts – after a Division 2 title in 2009 and the last two Division 1 crowns – is still intact as they booked a semi-final berth against Down next Sunday. They have firmly bossed their ties against the Mourne men in recent times yet their opponents will have renewed vigour when they meet next. Conor Counihan watched his Aghada clubmate Pearse O’Neill swing over the late point that copper-fastened Cork’s triumph and shifted focus to the next challenge.

“It will be a good game for us – probably in Croke Park, I’d imagine – so we’ll be looking forward to that. We’ve seen a lot of each other over the past three years and it won’t be easy but we’ll give it our best shot,” he said.

There were enough good things about Cork’s performance in the first-half here that ultimately ensured they secured victory. The decisive score in the 19th minute had a hint of good fortune about it when Aidan Walsh’s fingertips interrupted the flight of Graham Canty’s long ball and with Michael Savage hesitant in the Dublin goal, the ball bounced into the corner.

But elsewhere Cork were impressive from the assurance of Michael Shields at full-back, the holes Eoin Cadogan punched in his forays forward and the threat Walsh posed in his deployment at full-forward. When Walsh found the net they were ahead 1-5 to 0-1 and the interval advantage was still substantial as they lead 1-8 to 0-5.

The final score of the half from Colm O’Neill that originated from a great turnover by Fintan Goold was typical of Cork’s early drive. Yet those standards slumped after the break in the face of a strong wind and Dublin renaissance.

“Four points in the second half – you wouldn’t win many games with that,” reflected Counihan.

“The key for us is that if you’re not going to dominate for 70 minutes we need to dominate for longer periods. We need to be more consistent and it’s something we’re struggling with.”

His opposite management number could relate to that statement. Pat Gilroy did not mince his words in the wake of the previous weekend’s humbling in Castlebar and the opening quarter of this game held the worrying forecast that a repeat was on the cards. But Dublin ploughed away with Rory O’Carroll, Michael Darragh MacAuley and Kevin McManamon proficient in that regard. They strung together four points on the trot after the break, all stylish scores from play courtesy of Bryan Cullen, Fennell, McManamon and MacAuley, to trim the gap to two.

The momentum was behind them but Dublin could not bridge the gap. They were not helped by errant shooting with Diarmuid Connolly the biggest culprit. Cork managed to gain a foothold in the game once more. The O’Neills, Pearse and Colm, prised apart Dublin’s mass defence to take the sting out of the capital side’s comeback. Despite McManamon looking like he could do damage, Dublin were never able to carve open the Cork defence. Still their manager was adopting a half-full glass attitude after.

“We’d be a hell of a lot happier than we were this time last week,” he said.

“I thought our discipline was good today. I thought we were actually doing alright in the first-half except we conceded a stupid goal. In the second half in particular we really showed plenty of appetite for the fight.

“But we missed far too much, we had 14 or 15 wides, far too many in a game against somebody like Cork.”

Gilroy boarded the bus back to Dublin with the league scrubbed from memory and their focus trained on championship matters.

“We have eight weeks now to get ourselves right for the championship. It was a very important day for us today to get a good performance out of ourselves.

“We know the bottom line for us in the championship is if we have that intensity, we’ll be a good team. That is the clear message from the league – the couple of games where we were really off that, we were brutal.”

Scorers for Cork: A Walsh 1-1, C O’Neill 0-4 (2fs), D O’Connor (f), P Kerrigan, P O’Neill 0-2 each, F Goold 0-1.

Scorers for Dublin: D Connolly 0-5 (2fs), B Cullen, MD MacAuley, K McManamon 0-2 each, E Fennell 0-1.

Subs for Cork: P Kissane for Kiely (ht), N Murphy for O’Connor (55), N O’Leary for Cadogan (65), J O’Sullivan for Cotter (67).

Subs for Dublin: D Bastic for Murray (32), B Cahill for Byrne (ht), P Brogan for Nolan (61), D Kelly for Dias (61), R McConnell for Fennell (66).

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).

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