Cork 2-17 Down 1-12
Cork powered through to the NFL Division One final with a convincing win over Down at Croke Park this afternoon.
A disappointing crowd of just 11,342 watched a double bill of semi-finals, and the stadium was distinctly lacking in atmosphere for a game which failed to produce the drama of the curtain-raiser between Mayo and Kerry.
Colm O’Neill turned in a sparkling attacking display which saw him shoot a 1-6 tally, while midfielder Alan O’Connor scored the second goal that secured the latest in a string of heavy defeats of their Ulster rivals.
A lively start saw both side trade points at lightning pace, with Arthur McConville, Conor Laverty and Benny Coulter on target for Down, with Pearse O’Neill (2) and Colm O’Neill responding at the other end.
Laverty and McConville always carried a threat in the inside line, but Down frequently found themselves on the back foot due to the foraging runs of midfielder Pearse O’Neill and the industry of Paul Kerrigan.
O’Neill powered forward to punch over his second score of the contest, and when Kerrigan and Aidan Walsh tagged on points, the Rebels led by 0-5 to 0-4 after 13 minutes.
Coulter’s crossfield pass sent Mark Poland in to bring the sides level for the fourth time, but two Colm O’Neill scores had the Munster men ahead by two.
Laverty notched his third point from play, but was forced out of the action by injury just before half-time, with Kerrigan splitting the posts to send Cork in with a 0-9 to 0-7 advantage.
Conor Counihan’s side stepped up the intensity after the restart, and after Colm O’Neill and Kerrigan had added to their personal tallies, the pair combined for a 43rd minute goal.
It was Kerrigan who slipped the ball inside for O’Neill to gather at pace and send a low angled shot to the bottom corner of the net past Brendan McVeigh.
Now five points adrift, Down went for goal, but Coulter was denied by a superb Ray Carey block, but the International Rules star did hoist a wonderful point soon afterwards to keep his side’s hopes alive.
And the Mourne men were right back in it when substitute Jamie O’Sullivan scooped the ball off the ground to deny Kalum King a certain goal, conceding a penalty which Aidan Carr drilled home in the 54th minute.
But Cork hit back with a second goal, gifted from close range to Alan O’Connor after goalkeeper McVeigh had failed to hold a dropping ball.
They finished the job off with late scores from O’Neill and Daniel Goulding.
Cork: C O’Neill 1-6 (0-2f), A O’Connor 1-0, P Kerrigan, P O’Neill 0-3 each, D O’Connor, A Walsh, N O’Leary, D Goulding, B O’Driscoll 0-1 each.
Down: A Carr 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), C Laverty, B Coulter 0-3 each, A McConville (f), P Turley, M Poland, B McArdle 0-1 each.
CORK: A Quirke, R Carey, M Shields, E Cotter, N O'Leary, E Cadogan, P Kissane, A O'Connor, P O'Neill, F Goold, P Kelly, P Kerrigan, C O'Neill, A Walsh, D O'Connor.
Subs: J O’Sullivan for Cotter, B O’Driscoll for Walsh, D O’Sullivan for Cadogan, M Collins for Goold, D Goulding for O’Connor
DOWN: B McVeigh, D McCartan, B McArdle, D Turley, K McKernan, N McParland, C Garvey A Rogers, K King, P Turley, M Poland, A Carr, A McConville, C Laverty, B Coulter.
Subs: C Maginn for Laverty, A Brannigan for D Turley, D O’Hare for McConville
Referee: M Higgins (Sligo).