Dublin 0-18 Cork 1-17
Colm O’Neill kicked the clinching point for Cork as he made a successful return from injury in their thrilling 1-17 to 0-18 victory over Dublin.
These footballing heavyweights served up a Saturday night thriller at Croke Park, with Brian Cuthbert’s Rebels holding on at the death thanks to late scores from substitutes Donal Og Hodnett and O’Neill.
O’Neill’s second half appearance off the bench was his first outing in Cork colours since suffering his third cruciate knee ligament injury last year.
The fit-again forward played his part in a confidence-boosting win for Cork as they handed the Dubs only their second defeat in 12 Allianz League games.
The reigning All-Ireland and league champions revelled in an exceptionally fluid opening, stringing together seven points from play for a 0-7 to 0-3 lead by the eighth minute.
But Daniel Goulding’s accuracy from frees helped Cork go 0-9 to 0-8 in front before John Hayes hammered home a fine 26th minute goal.
The Rebels, who thrived on the early ball in, took a 1-11 to 0-12 advantage into the break, Fintan Goold and Paul Kerrigan keeping them on course with Bryan Cullen missing a gilt-edged goal chance at the other end.
Tighter marking was the order of the day in the second period and Dublin’s increasing wides tally came back to haunt them as economical Cork took home the spoils.
The recalled John Hayes punched over the first point after just 14 seconds, getting away from Sean George for an opportunity that could have seen him go for goal.
Dublin manager Jim Gavin had to make a late change as Davy Byrne was added to the team after Paul Flynn hobbled off in the warm-up.
Full-forward Brian Hurley then gathered a brilliant Aidan Walsh pass to turn and put Cork two points to the good.
Kevin McManamon got Dublin off the mark within two minutes and a left-footed shot from the lively Cormac Costello tied things up at 0-2 apiece.
The blistering pace and high scoring rate continued as Ciaran Kilkenny palmed over from a tight angle, while Goulding soon lobbed over his first free of the night for Cork.
Costello added his second and third points from play to give the Dubs a 0-5 to 0-3 advantage, with the hosts’ support play and angles of running proving very effective.
A barnstorming run from Michael Darragh Macauley created Kilkenny’s second score and McManamon pointed from the hand for a 0-7 to 0-3 scoreline.
Two well-taken scored by Cork corner forward Hayes cut the gap to two points, before Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton converted a left-sided free.
But Goulding increased his influence with three brilliant frees, bringing the Leesiders level at 0-8 each with the best of the lot a dead-eye effort from near the right sideline.
Brian Hurley missed a place ball opportunity to kick Cork in front, but Goulding made no mistake from closer in as Dublin hit a lull.
James McCarthy lofted over a fine score to get Gavin’s charges back on track, with Cluxton sparing his defenders’ blushes as he parried a low Hurley shot just to the right of his goal.
As the rain began to come down, Goulding missed the resulting ‘65’ but Hayes gave the rejigged Dublin defence the run-around - Jack McCaffrey was newly introduced for George - as he picked his spot superbly for the game’s opening goal.
Ciaran Reddin landed an immediate response for Dublin who were denied by Cork stopper Ken O’Halloran when he stood up well to block a fisted effort from the onrushing Bryan Cullen.
A second successful placed ball from Cluxton reduced the arrears to two and that is how it stayed up to half-time as Goold and Kerrigan sandwiched Reddin’s second point.
Costello knocked over a free during a defence-dominated start to the second period, with the marking noticeably tighter by both sides.
A stunning free from Goulding from wide out on the right reopened the two-point buffer, and substitute Donal Og Hodnett opened his account to make it three again.
Another Goulding free left Dublin 1-14 to 0-13 behind as the Blues’ wides tally increased to six. Gavin opted for a more direct approach with Eoghan O’Gara introduced up front.
O’Gara was quickly involved in setting up a McManamon point - ending a 10-and-a-half minute scoreless spell - however, O’Gara and Cullen soon kicked wides.
The fit-again Colm O’Neill came on for Hayes in the Cork attack before Kilkenny landed a free in the 52nd minute.
Cluxton showed his forwards how it is done as he flighted off a terrific ‘65’ closing in on the hour mark, as the Dubs lifted the tempo in preparation for a strong finish.
Substitute Paul Hudson made up for a poor free with a neatly taken point from play, bringing the home side level at 0-17 to 1-14.
Some slick interplay from the visitors created an opening for the returning O’Neill who curled over from the right after getting free from Jonny Cooper.
Although Hudson hit Dublin’s twelfth wide, the pressure eventually told when substitute Shane Carthy sent over the levelling score.
But Cork clinically picked off two decisive scores in a tense finale. Firstly, Dubliner defender Cooper was dispossessed and Hodnett duly kicked the Rebels in front.
Fittingly, a classy second point from O’Neill put Cork out of Dublin’s reach, the Ballyclough clubman again turning expertly onto his left to loft over into the Hill 16 end.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton (0-3, 0-2f, 0-1 '65'); S George, P McMahon, M Fitzsimons; E Lowndes, C O'Sullivan, J Cooper; J McCarthy (0-1), MD Macauley; D Byrne, C Reddin (0-2), B Cullen; K McManamon (0-3), C Kilkenny (0-3, 0-1f), C Costello (0-4, 0-1f).
Subs used: D Nelson for Lowndes, E O'Gara for Byrne, P Hudson (0-1) for Costello, S Carthy (0-1) for Reddin.
CORK: K O'Halloran; C Dorman, E Cadogan, N Galvin; J Loughrey, A Cronin, T Clancy (Fermoy); A Walsh, F Goold (0-1); J O'Rourke, P Kerrigan (0-1), M Collins; D Goulding (0-7, 0-7f), B Hurley (0-1), J Hayes (1-3).
Subs used: D Og Hodnett (0-2) for Galvin, C O'Neill (0-2) for Hayes, R Deane for Walsh, A O'Sullivan for Goold, C O'Driscoll for Hurley, K O'Driscoll for Loughrey.
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh)