Selector Eoin O’Neill described the game as a must-win following Cork’s draw with Galway and loss to Kildare in previous rounds: “We have to be happy with it, it was a game we had to win and we went out and won it. “We were very disappointed with the start against Kildare two weeks ago and we got into the game early today with a couple of points. When you’re playing a team that plays defensively, getting scores early has a big impact. That opened up gaps, those led to scores and we got over the line, thankfully.”
O’Neill’s synopsis was on the money. Fermanagh’s deliberate build-up play foundered on Cork’s strength in turning the ball over early on, and Paul Kerrigan’s mobility caused the visiting defence problems as well.
The Rebels were already in control when he and Donncha O’Connor combined to place Niall Coakley for the game’s only goal from close range - that made the score 1-5 to 0-3 on 24 minutes, and as Fermanagh boss Pete McGrath noted afterwards, it was a critical score.
“In the first-half I think we might have lost the game, we had five of six wides in the first 15 minutes, and maybe those misses sapped the energy out of us a little bit. Cork’s goal, that was a big, big score and put significant daylight between the teams, and in addition Cork had the advantage of the breeze in the second half.”
Cork led 1-7 to 0-3 at the interval and though Fermanagh had a couple of Sean Quigley points on the resumption, the home side’s ability to move the ball down the flanks with fluency kept them in the driving seat.
Kerrigan might have had another couple of goals before the end, one of the few blots on the landscape for O’Neill: “Yeah, we should have worked one or two more (goals) there towards the end, though if you’d offered us a seven-, eight-point win before the game we’d have taken it. Hopefully, scoring differences won’t come back to haunt us. We’d like to be a little bit sharper with those chances but it is what it is.
“We talked after the first two matches and felt we missed 15 chances - we missed a few today as well - it’s about getting scores on the board, and a couple of lads came in today and put their hands up for selection the next day, and that’s what we want.”
McGrath was complimentary about the winners: “We were disappointed with our performance but Cork had a lot to do with that - their tackling, their energy, their strength, their athleticism. Some of their play was really, really good, and at times they looked potent going forward. We have no complaint about the result, we’re just bitterly disappointed in our own performance. We think we’re better than that but when Cork raised the bar today we just weren’t able to get up it. They played some strong football and forced a lot of turnovers - we ran into the tackle too much, and we were sluggish. I’m not sure why.”
Eoin O’Neill added Eoin Cadogan and Ryan Price, named as sub and starter respectively, were not risked by Cork because of “twinges”, but are close to full fitness. Cork will be happy with the win, though in addition to the goal chances spurned there were seven second-half wides, even if the wind was a factor.
Their tackling, remarked upon by McGrath, was good and gave them a springboard deep in enemy territory more than once. They’ll be looking to continue that upward trend in their next day out, against Clare, while Fermanagh have a tougher assignment when they take on a Kildare side looking for revenge after a late loss yesterday in Derry.
N. Coakley (4 frees)(1-4); P. Kerrigan (0-4); B. O’Driscoll (0-2); J. O’Rourke, D. O’Connor, L. Connolly, D. Óg Hodnett (0-1 each).
S. Quigley (4 frees, 1 45)(0-5); T. Corrigan, E. Courtney, A. Breen, R. Jones (0-1 each).
K. O’Halloran; K. Crowley, T. Clancy (Clonakilty), M. Shields; T. Clancy (Fermoy), J. Loughrey, S. Cronin; A. Walsh, R. Deane; B. O’Driscoll, L. Connolly, J. O’Rourke; N. Coakley, D. O’Connor, P. Kerrigan.
C. O’Neill for O’Connor (53); M. Collins for O’Rourke (55); C. O’Driscoll for Crowley (60); D. Óg Hodnett for Connolly (62); P. Kelleher for Coakley (66); K. O’Driscoll for B. O’Driscoll (70).
T. Treacy; B. Mulroney, C. Cullen, M. Jones; D. McCusker, R. McCluskey L. Cullen; E. Donnelly (c), R. Hyde; A. Breen, P. McCusker ,R. Lyons; E. Courtney, S. Quigley, T. Corrigan.
R. Jones and K. Connor for Lyons and P. McCusker (HT); J. McMahon for McCluskey (53); D. Keenan for Corrigan (57); P. Reihill for D. McCusker (60).
A. Nolan (Wicklow).
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