Cork were put to the pins of their collars by Derry in Division 1 of the Allianz Football League at Páirc Uí Rinn today, but by the end their 100% record was still alive.
Leading by 11 points at one stage in the first half, Cork found themselves on the back foot as Derry dominated for much of the second half, but though the Oak Leaf County reduced the gap to a solitary point on four separate occasions, it was the closest they came.
The home team began like a train, kicking five uninterrupted points in the opening eight minutes and it got even better on 13 as John O’Rourke flicked Paul Kerrigan’s delivery to the net. Though Derry did gradually come to life, another Cork goal, from corner-back Tomás Clancy after Paul Kerrigan forced a turnover, had them sitting pretty, Brian Hurley’s subsequent point making it 2-8 to 0-3.
A hold-up for treatment to injured Derry defender Seán Leo McGoldrick meant that Cork’s momentum was stalled, however, and in the closing stages of the half Derry took advantage. Enda Lynn, who had earlier been denied by a good Ken O’Halloran save, looked to have suffered the same fate again, only for the ball to rebound off him and into the net.
Even so, it didn’t appear to be of seismic importance, but when Emmett McGuckin won Patsy Bradley’s delivery and fired past O’Halloran, all of a sudden there were only five points in it, 2-9 to 2-4 the half-time score.
In the early stages of the second half, Derry continued to come and it was Cork’s turn to struggle to make any headway. Lynn and the impressive Ciarán McFaul were both among the scores while Mark Lynch proved his usual reliable self from frees as the lead dwindled point by point.
When Lynn found the net again with 17 minutes left – a wicked deflection taking it past O’Halloran – it was 2-15 to 3-10 and then Derry’s outstanding performer, midfielder Fergal Doherty, cut the gap to just a point points.
Though Mark Colllins edged Cork ahead again, a 45 from Derry sub Benny Heron cancelled it out, but three times Derry passed up chances of an equaliser. Had they got it, then they surely would have pushed on to inflict Cork’s first defeat, but despite the nervousness, the hosts remained steadfast.
O’Neill’s frees were vital and his third, in the 71st minute, gave them a two-point advantage. Derry full-back Chrissy McKaigue gave them some hope with a booming effort, but Doherty’s attempt at a leveller tailed to the right.
K O’Halloran; A Cronin, M Shields, Tomás Clancy; J Loughrey, J McLoughlin, K O’Driscoll; F Goold, A O’Sullivan; M Collins, P Kerrigan, J O’Rourke; D Goulding, B Hurley, J Hayes.
Subs: D O’Connor for O’Rourke (41, black card), C O’Driscoll for Goulding, C O’Neill for Hayes (both 46), Barry O’Driscoll for Kerrigan (47, injured), M Ó Laoire for O’Sullivan (54-55, blood), P Kelly for McLoughlin (69), M Ó Laoire for Hurley (70).
T Mallon; D McBride, C McKaigue, M Craig; SL McGoldrick, A McAlynn, K Johnston; F Doherty, P Bradley; C McFaul, M Lynch, E Lynn; J Kielt, E McGuckin, C O’Boyle.
Subs: O Duffy for Craig (26), C McAtamney for McGoldrick (30-33, blood), McAtamney for McGoldrick (half-time), B Heron for Kielt (42), D Mullan for McGuckin (64), A Kerrigan for O’Boyle (70).
M Deegan (Laois).