Dublin 2-20 Cork 2-13
Croke Park witnessed one of Gaelic football’s great comebacks as the Dubs came from 10 points behind to win by seven.
The All-Ireland champions ripped the Cork defence to shreds as they set up an NFL final meeting with Derry.
On a day of many positives for Jim Gavin’s side. Bernard Brogan’s first appearance of the season was an added bonus.
He came off the bench after 44 minutes and played a major role in his side’s recovery, hitting five points and winning a penalty that Diarmuid Connolly netted.
Midfielder Michael Darragh Macauley led the charge with a momentous second half display that included the goal sparking a blue surge at the Hill 16 end.
Cork manager Brian Cuthbert will no doubt reflect long and hard on his side’s second half collapse as he looks ahead to a Munster Championship opener against either Limerick or Tipperary.
A calamitous start saw the Dubs concede two goals inside the opening six minutes. First Colm O’Neill raced through to smash home a screamer that gave Stephen Cluxton no chance.
But the Dublin goalkeeper should have done better in failing to deal with a dropping delivery which went in off the back-pedalling Nicky Devereux.
The Rebels were nine points up by the 11th minute, after Brian Hurley, Mark Collins and Fintan Goold had swept over points. Dublin struggled to break down a tenacious defence in which Michael Shields, Tom Clancy and Patrick Kelly were outstanding, while Daniel Goulding got back to make a vital interception as Philly McMahon headed for goal.
Paddy Andrews and Paul Flynn knocked over points, but there were bad misses from the usually reliable Diarmuid Connolly and Kevin McManamon.
At the other end, Hurley had no such problems with his finishing, hitting another couple of points.
Eoghan O’Gara came off the bench to hit the target twice as the All-Ireland champions played their way into contention, but when Hurley skipped past Rory O’Carroll and Michael Darragh Macauley to fist over his fourth, the Munster men led by 2-9 to 0-7 at the break.
They stretched the advantage to 10 points through James Loughrey and Goulding, but Dublin hit back with a goal.
Alan Brogan turned over possession 60 metres out, and picked out corner back McMahon, who thumped his shot against an upright, but Macauley was perfectly placed to pick up the rebound and slot the ball past Ken O’Halloran.
Bernard Brogan came off the bench on 44 minutes for his first appearance of the season and knocked over a free to narrow the gap further.
Another sub, Davy Byrne, had a glorious goal chance, but blazed his shot over the bar. Brogan had a shot at goal blocked as well, before converting his second free to slice the deficit to four with 20 minutes to play.
A defence-splitting move started by Connolly and carried on by Brogan and Paul Flynn presented Paddy Andrews with a goal chance, but his shot was superbly deflected over the bar by ‘keeper O’Halloran.
An impressive sequence of Dublin scores was interrupted only by a Patrick Kelly point and as Cork pushed forward they were caught on the counter, Alan Brogan leading the breakaway which Jonny Cooper finished.
It was Bernard Brogan who gave the Dubs the lead for the first time since the opening minute, and the former Footballer of the Year continued to torment the Rebel defence, winning the penalty that Connolly slid home in the 66th minute.
Dublin: S Cluxton, J Cooper (0-1), R O’Carroll, P McMahon, J McCarthy, N Devereux, K Nolan, MD Macauley (1-1), D O’Mahony, J Whelan, A Brogan (0-1), D Connolly (1-2, 1-0 pen 0-1f), P Flynn (0-1), K McManamon (0-1), P Andrews (0-3).
Subs: E O’Gara (0-3) for Whelan, D Byrne (0-1) for O’Mahony, B Brogan (0-5, 3f) for McManamon, D Nelson for Nolan, C Reddin (0-1) for Andrews, Brady for O’Gara.
Cork: K O’Halloran, M Shields, J O’Sullivan, T Clancy, J Loughrey (0-1), P Kelly (0-1), D Cahalane, F Goold (0-1), A O’Sullivan, M Collins (0-1), D O’Connor (0-1), P Kerrigan, D Goulding (0-2, 1f), B Hurley (0-5), C O’Neill (1-1).
Subs: J O’Rourke for O’Connor, A Walsh for Goulding, J Hayes for O’Neill, N Galvin for Canty, Tomas Clancy for O’Sullivan, K O’Driscoll for Kerrigan
Referee: C Branagan (Down).