Cork haven’t been so much good one day, bad the next, this spring, as untouchable one weekend, woeful the next.
Having mixed the best of both worlds when falling to Dublin last weekend, yesterday’s performance, much to the relief of management, was much better: eleven players etched their names onto the scoresheet as the home outfit picked off Monaghan with minimum fuss.
Where Cork were decent against Dublin, they were clinical against Monaghan.
Their start was again electric; 1-5 to 0-0 they led after nine minutes, but, on this occasion, there was no let-up in intensity and the opposition could not claw their way back.
The third-quarter was the area where Cork had fallen down in Croke Park. Again, lessons were learned and Cork kicked four of the first five scores of the second-half, to kill off the Ulstermen’s challenge. Had Cork not gone into lockdown mode in the final 10 minutes, the winning margin could so easily have been in double digits.
This is the Rebels’ second win of the campaign, halting a three-game losing run. It moves them out of the drop-zone with two rounds remaining. Qualification to the knock-out stages is back on the table, but Healy’s troops are not consistent. From their two wins, Cork’s average margin of victory is eight points. From their three losses, the average margin of defeat is 11 points. Make sense of that.
The difference this weekend, according to Healy, was attitude and work-rate. “I am encouraged by Sean Kiely and his work-rate. I am encouraged by Colm O’Driscoll and his work-rate. I am encouraged by Peter Kelleher and his work-rate. For our boys, the big thing is work-rate.” Kelleher was involved in the opening goal, after six minutes, excellently taking down Paul Kerrigan’s delivery. Colm O’Neill moved onto the shoulder of the ever-improving full-forward to collect the off-load, and while there were a fair few white shirts still to negotiate, O’Neill slotted the ball into the left corner. Brian O’Driscoll split the posts with the outside of the right in the ensuing play to complete a near-perfect opening.
A Conor McManus free had Monaghan off the mark, after 10 minutes, Ryan McAnespie landing their first from play at the end of the first-quarter. But with the Cork half-back line and midfield dominant, Brian O’Driscoll and Tómas Clancy particularly assertive, Monaghan were unable to make any inroads and were forced to pull Darren Hughes from the inside line to stabilise the middle.
The Scotstown footballer cut through from midfield on 24 minutes, dragging his final effort across Ryan Price’s goal and wide. Mark Collins and Brian O’Driscoll kicked two on the bounce — 1-10 to 0-3 the scoreboard read after 29 minutes. Then arrived the sole lapse in concentration from Cork. A needless foul on Ryan Wylie handed McManus a close-range free, and while the Cork players retreated towards goal, the corner-forward dinked the ball over the top to the unmarked Conor McCarthy and he finished past Price. Hughes, and two superb McManus kicks, thereafter cut the gap to four. Cork were rattled.
They’ve been rattled, though, a fair few times this spring. The difference this time was that if they hadn’t responded, they’d have been staring down the barrel of relegation come 3.30pm.
Mark Collins landed his second just one minute into first-half stoppages. Peter Kelleher pulled another delivery from the clouds. Foul. Colm O’Neill slotted his fourth free, and the 1-12 to 1-6 half-time scoreline had Cork back on the front foot. The tempo stayed up in the second-half; Colm O’Driscoll was on target within 47 seconds of the restart. O’Neill delivered a big score off the left, and while McManus cancelled it out, a fifth free from the Ballyclough forward, and a Kevin O’Driscoll effort, moved Cork 1-15 to 1-7 clear, 20 minutes from home. The end result was never in doubt beyond that, but Cork refused to lower their guard; Eoin Cadogan and Kevin Crowley led a defensive charge that limited Malachy O’Rourke’s side to just one point from play in the second period. Middle ground they just don’t know.
C O’Neill (1-8, 0-6 frees); M Collins, B O’Driscoll (0-2 each); C O’Driscoll, K O’Driscoll, L Connolly (0-1 free), P Kerrigan, P Kelleher, D Mac Eoin (0-1 free), D Goulding, R Deane (0-1 each).
C McManus (0-8, 0-6 frees); C McCarthy (1-0); R Beggan (0-1 free, 0-1 ‘45), D Hughes (0-2) each.
R Price; J O’Sullivan, E Cadogan, K Crowley; T Clancy, B O’Driscoll, K O’Driscoll; I Maguire, S Kiely; M Collins, L Connolly, C O’Driscoll; C O’Neill, P Kelleher, P Kerrigan.
B Hurley for Connolly (47 mins) K O’Hanlon for Kiely (52), M Shields for B O’Driscoll (55, bc), R Deane for C O’Driscoll (58), D Mac Eoin for O’Neill (60), D Goulding for Kelleher (64).
R Beggan; C Walshe, D Wylie, R Wylie; D Mone, F Kelly, R McAnespie; K O’Connell, N McAdam; S Carey, D Malone, G Doogan; C McCarthy, D Hughes, C McManus.
V Corey for Doogan (HT), O Duffy for Malone (44 mins), F McGeough for McCarthy (59).
P O’Sullivan (Kerry).