Donegal cut Rebels down to size
Donegal 0-16 Cork 1-11:In the end it was a bloodless affair. Donegal proved far superior to Cork in all areas of contact and deservedly set up a crack at only their second All-Ireland title. We got the expected sticky opening exchanges with Donegal funnelling bodies behind the ball. Cork understood the need to get quick ball into their forwards.
It worked for about 20 minutes but there was an inevitability about this game from early in the second-half. The reward for quick ball in that opening quarter was points for Paul Kerrigan and the ever dangerous pair of Patrick Kelly and Ciarán Sheehan.
Donegal responded via their twin towers, Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden, with Murphy getting the better of his first exchange with Eoin Cadogan to win a free, while McFadden got their only score from play in this period after Karl Lacey won dirty ball in defence and Murphy slapped down the resulting high ball.
That was the contest really. Cork going direct or patiently working it down the wings. Donegal crowding out their opponents and breaking out of defence at pace whenever possession was wrestled back.
Rory Kavanagh profited from one such turnover, with a soaring point from wide right only for Cork to respond immediately with Colm O’Neill clipping over a thing of beauty from wide left. The same man edged the Rebels in front, 0-6 to 0-5, on 25 minutes. The 55,169 crowd was braced for an epic. It never came.
Lacey, the three-time All Star, raced forward to level matters. Cork instantly counter punched with Sheehan nailing his second point.
Sheehan wasn’t initially listed to start but injury to Ray Carey saw Conor Counihan re-jigg Cork’s starting line-up as Noel O’Leary dropped into the fullback line. Nicholas Murphy was also replaced in the full forward line by Daniel Goulding.
Not that position counted for much in this game. The Donegal system saw to that. They adopted their two yellow lines in defence with Mark McHugh sweeping between them although their entire full forward remained line close to the Cork posts.
Jim McGuinness felt the need to change things up on 29 minutes with David Walsh replacing Ryan Bradley and immediately kicking a point.
The first half didn’t end in deadlock, however, as Lacey and McHugh sprinted up field with after another turnover to nudge the Ulster champions ahead.
Still, Cork could be satisfied with the standard of scores they did manufacture – even if Aidan Walsh’s miss-firing boot denied them a lead – while Cadogan and Michael Shields were coping with the Donegal’s giant inside forwards.
After a prolonged delay, which seemed to anger Counihan, Donegal finally returned to get the second half underway.
Cork took the initiative, owning the ball for long stretches but they were unable to equalise with Graham Canty and Kerrigan shooting wide under pressure.