The McGrath Cup may have been tucked away with ease earlier this month, but this first round league contest would give a more accurate reading of where Cork stood under Peadar Healy, or more pertinently, where they were headed.
The verdict come 3.40pm?
Encouraging, extremely encouraging at that.
The home outfit had nine points to spare on Mayo and this after failing to add to their tally during the final quarter of an hour of action, during which period Mayo kicked five on the bounce.
Indeed, such was Cork’s dominance their opponents were subjected to barren spells of 15 and 11 minutes in the first-half and further 17 and 11-minute dry spells at the change of ends. And when Brian Hurley nonchalantly dispatched a 56th minute penalty following a Michael Hall foul on Mark Collins, the scoreboard read 1-18 to 0-7. This being the last weekend in January, there wasn’t a single soul, inside or outside the wire, losing the run of themselves afterwards, but all the same, here was a pretty solid foundation on which to launch their spring campaign.
Ian Maguire made his first competitive start in a red shirt since last February, Daniel Goulding since last April (discounting the McGrath Cup). Both were impressive.
Paul Kerrigan turned in a man of the match performance on his debut afternoon as the new Cork captain, while relative newcomers Kieran Histon, Andrew O’Sullivan and Luke Connolly looked anything but out of place.
Further positives were to be gleaned from Cork’s work-in-progress style of play; far greater emphasis placed on the boot rather than the hand. Case-in-point was Daniel Goulding’s third minor of the afternoon on 27 minutes. The score was instigated by a rather brazen cross-field kick from Paul Kerrigan which Luke Connolly gathered before offloading to Goulding who duly obliged. The home outfit were not afraid to put boot to ball and while their game-plan unravelled towards the finish, there weren’t too many bum notes in the opening 50 minutes.
Goulding’s effort moved Cork 0-9 to 0-3 clear and already the westerners were in danger of sinking. The lively Jason Doherty had kicked two early points to cancel out a pair of Brian Hurley and Goulding frees, but no Mayo score was forthcoming for another quarter of an hour – Cork raising four white flags during this time.
Maguire, and to a lesser extent Andrew O’Sullivan, were doing the business around the middle, while Tomás Clancy, Eoin Cadogan and Brian O’Driscoll were the prominent figures across a crowded-half back line.
Mayo’s inside pair of Doherty and Regan, as well as Lee Keegan, did succeed in opening up the Cork rearguard on three occasions in the opening half, but O’Halloran made one fine save, while the remainder were off target. Aidan O’Shea was sent in to bat on the half hour mark, but drove wide with his first kick. It was that kind of an afternoon for Stephen Rochford’s men.
At the other end of the field Cork danced a merry jig around the Mayo defence; Kerrigan, Clancy, Brian O’Driscoll and Goulding swelling their tally. Pick of the bunch was an audacious effort from the left boot of Goulding on 32 minutes after fine approach play from O’Driscoll and Connolly.
By half-time, the scoreboard read 0-12 to 0-4. Five more followed on the restart from Maguire, Goulding (free), Kerrigan, Connolly (free) and Brian O’Driscoll.
Instead of the expected Mayo response, Healy’s charges continued to plough on - Mark Collins pretty much summing up their attitude when getting between two Mayo defenders to win a ball he had absolutely no claim to, and, in the process, setting up a Paul Kerrigan point after 42 minutes. Even a Daniel Goulding saved penalty on 43 minutes couldn’t dampen the mood. The one-way traffic did relent slightly to allow Conor O’Shea kick Mayo’s first score of the second-half on 51 minutes and while two more followed from Evan Regan and sub Mikey Sweeney, Mayo lacked shape, cohesion and were a good few miles off the pace. Their dead-ball kicking was extremely poor and there was hardly a single Mayo defender who enjoyed the upper hand.
Plenty to work on for both sides; Cork, you imagine, will go about it with a far greater spring in their step.
B Hurley (1-4, 1-0 pen, 0-3 frees); D Goulding (0-5, 0-2 frees); P Kerrigan (0-3); L Connolly (0-2 frees), B O’Driscoll (0-2 each); I Maguire, T Clancy (0-1 each).
C O’Shea (0-3); E Regan (0-2 frees), J Doherty (0-1 free), M Sweeney (0-1 free), T Parsons (0-2 each); L Keegan (0-1).
K O’Halloran; K Histon, E Cadogan, J O’Sullivan; C O’Driscoll, B O’Driscoll, T Clancy; I Maguire, A O’Sullivan; P Kerrigan, L Connolly, M Collins; D Goulding, P Kelleher, B Hurley.
B Daly for Cadogan (51 mins, inj), D Óg Hodnett for Kerrigan (56), R Deane for Maguire (58), S Hickey for Connolly, D MacEoin for Kelleher (both 63), M Collins for Histon (66).
R Hennelly; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, L Keegan; S Nally, D Vaughan, C Boyle; T Parsons, J Gibbons; C Crowe, K McLoughlin, D O’Connor; J Doherty, C O’Shea, E Regan.
A O’Shea for McLoughlin (30 mins, inj) M Sweeney for Crowe (44), D Drake for Vaughan (44), M Hall for Nally (48), C Carolan for O’Connor (58), P O’Hora for Keegan (61, inj).
M Deegan (Laois).