Donegal’s fourth league win of the spring has kept alive their promotion bid, while, in the process, moving Cork perilously closer to the relegation trapdoor.
A closing burst of 1-4 without reply from the northerners condemned Cork to their fourth defeat of Division 2 and even victory above in Armagh next week might not be enough to save the Rebels from Division 3 football in 2019.
With the first four points of the half shared evenly, Cork’s five-point interval lead was still intact on the 45-minute mark. But of the game’s next eight scores, seven were kicked by Declan Bonner’s side. Ryan McHugh, Murphy (two frees and a ‘45), Jamie Brennan, Niall O’Donnell and Hugh McFadden all found the target as Donegal crept into the lead.
Cork, to their credit, managed a Luke Connolly free to tie matters, but having to play the last two minutes of normal time with one man less than their opponents - Cork had used their full allocation of subs when Ian Maguire became injured - certainly didn’t help their cause.
Indeed, Cork would finish the game with just 12 men on the field as Mark Collins was sent off for a second yellow card offence in second-half stoppages, with Luke Connolly forced off through injury shortly after.
Cork’s challenge fell apart at the finish, with Donegal hitting 1-4 without reply from the 68th minute onwards to run out seven point winners.
The hosts, backed by the elements in the opening period, led 1-8 to 0-6 at the break, a five-point advantage that was largely forged during first-half stoppages. With Michael Murphy (free), Ciaran Thompson and Caolan Ward having kicked three in-a-row to bring the visitors level at 0-6 apiece on 33 minutes, Cork found an extra gear in the closing minutes of the half to establish daylight between the sides.
Half-back Mattie Taylor booted the ball to the net after Ruairí Deane’s shot was well blocked by Shaun Patton. The green flag was followed by two Eoghan McSweeney points, the impressive Knocknagree half-forward finishing the half with 0-3 beside his name.
Four on the bounce earlier in the half from Michael Hurley, Deane, McSweeney and Luke Connolly (free) had moved Cork into a 0-6 to 0-3 lead, with Ronan McCarthy’s packed defence frustrating the Donegal attack through a series of blocks and interceptions.
Elsewhere, Tipperary lost by the minimum away to Kildare, 1-11 to 2-7, as the Premier remain alongside Cork in the relegation places, while Armagh secured their Division 2 status with a 1-9 to 0-6 win over Fermanagh.
Clare's game at home to Meath, which was postponed this morning, has been rescheduled for Cusack Park at 2pm tomorrow.
Scorers for Cork: L Connolly (0-4, 0-3 frees); E McSweeney (0-3); M Taylor (1-0); M Collins, M Hurley (0-2 each); R Deane (0-1).
Scorers for Donegal: M Murphy (0-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 ‘45); J Brennan (1-2); N O’Donnell (0-3) R McHugh, D Ó Baoill (0-2 each); O Gallen, C Thompson, C Ward, H McFadden (0-1 each).
Cork: MA Martin; S Ryan, Thomas Clancy, C Dennehy; K Crowley, K Flahive, M Taylor; I Maguire, C O’Hanlon; E McSweeney, L Connolly, R Deane; M Hurley, M Collins, P Kerrigan.
Subs: M White for Martin (42, inj); R O’Toole for Kerrigan; K O’Driscoll for Taylor (both 57); S Powter for Deane (62-64, temporary); C Kiely for Dennehy (63); S Powter for Crowley (67)
Donegal: S Patton; L McLoone, S McMenamin, E Bán Gallagher; P Brennan, E Doherty, C Ward; H McFadden, C McGonagle; C Thompson, N O’Donnell, R McHugh; J Brennan, M Murphy, O Gallen.
Subs: D Ó Baoill for Brennan (24 mins); P McGrath for Ward (HT); E McHugh for Gallen (74); N McGee for Doherty (76).
Referee: D Gough (Meath).