A strong third-quarter showing - during which the hosts outscored Offaly by 0-6 to 0-1 - ensured Cork made a winning start to life in Division 3 of the Allianz football league.
Behind by the minimum at the break, and a distant second for stretches of the opening half, Cork began the second period with intent and were back on level footing within 50 seconds of the throw-in as half-time sub Michael Hurley immediately announced himself to proceedings.
Brian Hartnett, on his league debut, sent Cork in front for the first time in close to half an hour and the home side could have had the game’s opening goal thereafter, Kevin Crowley’s drive shaving the wrong side of the crossbar.
A foul on Ruairi Deane enabled Ciaran Sheehan to propel the Rebels three clear, 0-12 to 0-9, Offaly’s first-half body of work undone by Cork’s impressive start to the second-half.
A Bernard Allen free on 51 minutes was Offaly’s first score of the second period and their first in 22 minutes, but their intensity and movement was a shadow of what it had been in the opening half and so no closer did they come of their opponents. That Offaly managed only three second-half points, two of which were frees, says plenty.
Michael Hurley answered this free with a brace, the Castlehaven forward one of several Cork substitutions, along with Tadhg Corkery, John O’Rourke, and Colm O’Callaghan, to make an impression both from open play and on the scoreboard upon their introduction.
The final quarter was a near carbon copy of the third, Cork outscoring Offaly by 0-6 to 0-2 from the 62nd minute onward.
It is important to note that this was Cork’s first victory at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, in either league or championship, since the Munster semi-final win over Tipperary in the summer of 2014. Manager Ronan McCarthy will be pleased to correct that poor, poor run on home turf. And in terms of making a swift and necessary return to Division 2 to avoid involvement in the new Tier 2 championship, it was imperative to begin with two points bagged. Job done so, on all fronts.
Offaly had led 0-9 to 0-8 at the break, each one of the visitors’ scores coming from open play.
The hosts had certainly made the better start when racing 0-3 to 0-1 in front after 11 minutes, Ciaran Sheehan among the early contributors, but they’d fail to score in the 14 minutes following the full-forward’s effort.
Offaly reeled off six without reply during this period, their growing dominance stemming from their success in gobbling up several of Cork’s restarts. The lively Anton Sullivan began their scoring burst, with Ruairi McNamee levelling matters after Offaly won the ensuing kickout.
This trend continued apace, with Cian Johnson and the lively Bernard Allen (0-3) both finding the target to send the Faithful men 0-7 to 0-3 clear.
Cognisant of his teammates’ struggles out around the middle, and the extent to which Offaly were mounting successful attacks from the same department, Cork goalkeeper Micheál Martin dispatched a couple of short kickouts to ensure primary possession for the home side. That said, full-back Sam Ryan’s failure to keep in play one of these short kickouts accurately summed up a difficult first 20 minutes for Cork.
It fell to Sheehan to end Cork’s near quarter of an hour wait for a score of any description. Sean White further narrowed the gap, but with Offaly’s inside forwards continuing to cause problems for the Cork full-back line each time they were fed, the visitors made sure their opponents were not let back on level terms.
Cathal O’Mahony did land three points approaching the break, two of which were dead-ball efforts, but Ronan McCarthy’s troops still found themselves in arrears at the short whistle.
All that changed in the second period.
Meanwhile, Derry's Division Three promotion hopes suffered an early blow as they were held by a Leitrim side who fully deserved their Celtic Park draw on Saturday evening.
Keith Beirne was the Leitim hero with nine points from a faultless display for free-taking as Terry Hyland's team frustrated Derry and took full advantage of some wayward Oak Leaf passing.
A superb opening from the Connacht team who showed eight changes from the side humbled by Roscommon in the FBD League saw them lead 1-3 top 0-1 after 13 minutes, Cillian McGloin the goal scorer after Derry keeper Odhran Lynch had punched out a high ball.
Scorers for Cork: M Hurley (0-5, 0-1 free); C O’Mahony (0-3, 0-2 frees), C Sheehan (0-3, 0-1 free); S White, J O’Rourke (0-2 each); C O’Callaghan, T Corkery, B Hartnett, K Crowley, R Deane (0-1 each).
Scorers for Offaly: R McNamee (0-4, 0-2 frees), B Allen (0-4, 0-1 free), A Sullivan (0-4); C Johnson (0-1).
Cork: M Martin; S Powter, S Ryan, P Ring; K Crowley, L O’Donovan, M Taylor; I Maguire, T Clancy; R Deane, S White, B Hartnett; D Gore, C Sheehan, C O’Mahony.
Subs: M Hurley for Gore (HT); J O’Rourke for Clancy (50); C O’Callaghan for O’Mahony (56); T Corkery for O’Donovan (59); P Murphy for Sheehan (67)
Offaly: P Dunican; D Hogan, E Rigney, N Darby; E Carroll, D Dempsey, J Hayes; C Mangan, M Brazil; S Horan, R McNamee, C McNamee; C Johnson, B Allen, A Sullivan.
Subs: R McEvoy for C McNamee (16 mins); C Donohue for McEvoy (48); M Abbott for C Johnson (57); J Dempsey for Brazil (59); C Donnelly for Horan (64).
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).