THE prospect of strife by strikehas dissipated for the Cork footballers and on Saturday night in O’Moore Park in Portlaoise they looked a side blossoming as a result.
This was as straightforward an NFL Division Two victory as possible for Cork, as their accomplished display overwhelmed Laois. The memories of the laboured manner of their defeat of Fermanagh the previous week had rescinded by the final whistle here, and the absence of protest marches and half-time chants was to be welcomed as well. Cork manager Conor Counihan seemed relieved afterwards that all those sideshows look to be behind his team and their focus can now be concentrated on the football ahead.
“There’s no doubt it was a distraction and you could see that last week. Hopefully it’s behind us now. We’ve a tough run-in but we’re looking forward to being tested and see what we have got.
“Tonight was an improvement on last week. The reality is we didn’t play well last week and we looked for an improvement on that performance and we got it, to a certain extent. It was a good reaction.
“We’d be conscious of needing to vary it and try different things during the league. The point scoring was good, maybe we could have got a goal as well but at least we were creating them. It’s a great day; the U21s winning well also.”
Counihan has blended in newcomers throughout the league campaign, with Sigerson Cup heroes Ray Carey and Paul Flynn bedding in with solid displays here, and amongst the substitutes was Aisake Ó hAilpín. Counihan is satisfied with the progress of the former Aussie Rules player.
“He is on the panel now and he’s been training with us the last few weeks. He’s working hard and applying himself well. We’re happy with him and happy with every one in general.”
If the news was all positive for Cork, it was a different tale for Laois boss Sean Dempsey. Apart from a battling win over Armagh, signs of encouragement have been thin on the ground this spring. They struggled visibly from the word go on Saturday night. Cork’s greater size and heft was evident all over the pitch, and a stream of their scores arrived courtesy of moves where Cork’s power saw them barrel through the Laois defence.
Cork got the early fillip of a flurry of points that set the tenor for their evening’s work. Nicholas Murphy, Michael Cussen and Alan O’Connor were deployed as a three-man wave to engulf the midfield sector, and that generated acres of room inside for John Hayes and Donncha O’Connor to do their business. By the 15th minute Cork were 0-5 to 0-0 ahead and only for the butt of the upright, Pierce O’Neill would have goaled in the 13th minute.
Laois got off the mark through a Tierney free in the 17th minute, yet it was only a temporary respite as Cork commanded the rest of the half. Hayes and O’Connor fronted the scoring charge, while Conor McCarthy and Paul Flynn swung over great points.
By the interval Laois were staring at a 0-10 to 0-5 deficit, but they threatened to make a game of it early in the second half. Tierney curled over an outrageous score from the wing in the 43rd minute and Meaney followed that up with a point, as Laois cut Cork’s lead to 0-12 to 0-8. Yet Cork’s defence resumed its imperious form, Anthony Lynch and Michael Shields impressively carrying ball from deep, and they shut up shop for the rest of the game. Up front there was a further procession of scores for the Rebels and the heartening sight of James Masters springing from the bench and grabbing a point in a brief cameo, while for top scorer Donncha O’Connor there was a 0-9 haul to take way from O’Moore Park.
“It was better this week,” remarked O’Connor. “I still take the odd few ridiculous shots that should be recycled. But we’re getting better instead of taking shots for the sake of it. That showed in getting such a big score in comparison to last week. We’re happy enough with the progress so far but there are three games left and two tough Ulster teams to face.”
Scorers for Cork: D O’Connor 0-9 (0-5f), J Hayes 0-3 (0-1f), M Cussen, C McCarthy, P O’Flynn, P O’Neill, M Shields, J Masters 0-1 each.
Laois: MJ Tierney 0-7 (0-5f), K Meaney 0-2.
CORK: A Quirke; R Carey, N O’Donovan, A Lynch; N O’Leary, G Canty, M Shields; M Cussen, N Murphy; P O’Flynn, P O’Neill, C McCarthy; J Hayes, A O’Connor, D O’Connor.
Subs: P Kerrigan for McCarthy (yellow, 35), K O’Connor for O’Donovan (inj) (45), A O’Sullivan for A O’Connor (51), K O’Sullivan for Hayes (57), J Masters for N Murphy (60), G Spillane for Canty (64)
LAOIS: M Nolan; P Begley, C Ryan, R Stapleton; P O’Leary, D Rooney, P McMahon; P Clancy, B Quigley; B McCormack, D Brennan, B Sheehan; MJ Tierney, R Munnelly, P McNulty.
Subs: K Meaney for Sheehan (27), A Fennelly for Begley (55), C Rogers for McCormack (57), N Donoher for McMahon (63), D Murphy for O’Leary (63)
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).
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