Allianz FL Division 2
Derry 2-10 Cork 0-20
With throw-in at Celtic Park an hour before the majority of the day’s programme, Peadar Healy’s squad had the luxury of monitoring events elsewhere, so defeats for Down and Fermanagh confirmed a productive day’s work.
That said, they’ll be eager to finish the job next week.
It’s only 12 months since Cork travelled to Kerry for a final round Division One league fixture feeling more or less secure but the sequence of results that day sent them spiralling into the second tier on scoring differences.
Lose to Down in Páirc Uí Rinn next week and the Munster men will again be reaching for the abacus, but the Rebels have the sort of scoring advantage this time that could only be undone by a swing of seismic and ridiculous proportions.
“It has been a really disappointing league, if we are honest,” said Healy. “Two games we should have won.
“We should have beaten Galway and we should have beaten Meath last week. We could have been in the mix at the top.
“But, look, we are giving players a chance at the moment. Hopefully we can get momentum from this result and when Down come down next week we can get another positive result and build on this momentum.”
They earned this win, only their second of the campaign.
Derry were welcoming back key players to the starting 15 in the Slaughtneil pair of Brendan Rogers and Chrissy McKaigue, both at the back, while Danny Heavron and Mark Lynch were on duty again after injury, the latter off the bench.
Celtic Park had been a hub of activity earlier in the week, with the car parks on either side of the ground made available for the funerals of Martin McGuinness and Derry City captain Ryan McBride. Bill Clinton’s helicopter had landed on the pitch.
Any crowd was conspicuous by its absence this time with no more than maybe 500 people on hand to take in a game crucial to both counties and one played on a sublime surface and under a brilliant blue sky. Any wind was incidental.
The few on hand will remember the occasion for Colm O’Neill.
The scorer of nine points against Meath the week before, the Ballyclough corner-forward went two better here with four claimed from play, another quartet from frees and three again from ‘45s’.
It wasn’t perfect, O’Neill allowed himself a sighter that flew wide in the first minute and another 18 minutes in, but this was point-taking at its finest. Open play or dead ball, right foot or left - none of it mattered.
With an impressive Paul Kerrigan chipping in with five more from play, Cork had the firepower to hit a Derry defence that boasts no shortage of numbers but one that continues to flail about as opponents take advantage.
With Galway hitting them for 5-15 last week, this marked the second week in succession where Derry conceded twenty scores and only Offaly had presented a leakiest record than them before play started yesterday.
Carlus Williams played sweeper for the hosts here but Cork’s running game made his positioning all but moot time and again and a dominance at midfield, where Ian Maguire and Ruairi Deane excelled, ensured that the supply line was a regular one.
Cork showed their hunger from the first whistle by crowding the Derry third of the pitch with eight players for kick-outs and some of the running off the ball and on the shoulder of the man with the ball was superb.
With James Loughrey a spare man at the back, the visitors had a solid defensive platform but they proved susceptible to quick balls in, most notably for the goals plundered in each half by Danny Tallon after 27 and 52 minutes.
Both of them negated significant Cork leads and registered as challenges to the confidence and endurance of a side that has failed to push home the advantage more than once this season so the response each time was significant.
Three points on the spin flew over the Derry bar after the first - which came shortly after an 18-minute stoppage for the injured Derry defender Jason Rocks - and four on the trot followed the second.
That latter burst allowed them dial down the intensity for the last five minutes of play. For Derry, the writing is one the wall. For Cork, the question now is if they can dispense with their inconsistencies and use this as a take-off point.
D Tallon (2-1); E Lynn and C McKaigue (both 0-2); B Herron (0-2 frees); N Forester, N Loughlin (both 0-1); M Lynch (0-1 free).
C O’Neill (0-11, 4 frees, 3 ‘45’s); P Kerrigan (0-5); M Collins (0-2, 1 free); J O’Rourke and B O’Driscoll (0-1).
T Mallon; J Rocks, B Rogers, N Keenan; N Forester, C McKaigue, M Craig; P Cassidy, C McAtamney; E Lynn, E McGuckin, C Williams; D Tallon, N Loughlin, B Herron.
C Mullan for Rocvks (27); M McEvoy for Mullan (34); D Heavron for Craig (45); M Lynch for McGuckin (51);.
K O’Halloran; M Shields, T Clancy (Clonakilty), K Crowley; T Clancy (Fermoy), J LOughrey, S Cronin; I Maguire, R Deane; K O’Driscoll, M Collins, J O’Rourke; C O’Neill, P Kelleher, P Kerrigan.
C O’Driscoll for T Clancy (Fermoy, HT); D O’Connor for Kelleher (51); B O’Driscoll for O’Rourke (57); D Og Hodnett for Collins (62); C Dorman for Shields (64); J McLoughlin for Cronin (65).
M Duffy (Sligo).
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