Rebels find another gear to pull away
Cork 1-26 Offaly 2-16:CORK FINISHED the stronger in the closing 10 minutes to inflict a fourth defeat from as many outings on Offaly in the qualifiers at a sweltering Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday evening.
A timely burst from the visitors left Cork clinging to a 1-18 to 1-16 lead coming down the stretch, but the youthful home side found another gear when it mattered most to outscore their opponents 0-8 to 1-0 and claim a place in the next round.
Cork showed the importance of a strong bench as substitutes Daniel Kearney, Stephen Moylan (2) and Cathal Naughton supplemented Patrick Horgan’s free-taking and even though Shane Dooley struck for Offaly’s second goal from a free in the 64th minute, Cork added three more points in injury-time.
Offaly more than matched their hosts for an hour, their challenge spear-headed by outstanding rookie goalkeeper Eoin Kelly, who made some brilliant saves, full-back David Kenny and Derek Morkan, who scored two glorious long-range points, and Rory Hanniffy in a magnificent half-back line. Up front the twin threat posed by Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin, most notably in the first-half, had the Cork defence under pressure and Offaly led by four points, 1-7 to 0-6 after the opening quarter. Colin Egan batted in the goal in the 11th minute after netminder Anthony Nash saved his initial effort.
But Cork’s response was both swift and decisive. Pa Cronin caught Nash’s long drive and sent Paudie O’Sullivan clear. He set-up Horgan, who finished in style for a 19th minute goal.
Four points in quick succession, including the first of Nash’s pair from long-range frees, helped Cork to a somewhat undeserved 1-12 to 1-10 half-time lead.
Offaly resumed impressively, however, Dooley (2) and Bergin nudging them in front within five minutes of the second-half, but Cork hit back with a vengeance, claiming the next six points as they gained control.
New centre-back Christopher Joyce thundered into the game while replacement midfielder Daniel Kearney and Cian McCarthy and Conor Lehane in the half-forward division played starring roles.
Lehane started the sequence and McCarthy completed it with a point from a 65 after Kelly denied Horgan with a breath-taking save to leave Cork 1-18 to 1-13 in front after 57 minutes.
Offaly’s spirit was evident in the way Derek Molloy, Conor Mahon and Dooley cut the gap to two, but they couldn’t sustain their challenge as Cork found extra reserves to cross the line. Manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy admitted the seven-point victory flattered his side: “Offaly are a very good side, way better than people realise and we knew they would be very hard to beat.
“We’re very much in a development stage with our panel and we knew it would be a harder game than a lot of people expected. We’re not as good as some people are making out. That’s obvious. It’s a great boost to win and we’ll take confidence from that.”
Offaly boss Ollie Baker reckoned Cork’s more clinical finishing was the difference, but praised his side for “producing some spectacular hurling at times in a fantastic game”.
“I’m really proud of the lads’ effort. They kept going right to the end and they did all what was asked of them. I though the Offaly spirit was there to be seen in abundance,” he said.
The former Clare star bemoaned the end of the season for Offaly: “We need competitive matches to get experience. Our lads will come on a ton from this game, but we won’t play again for seven months. That’s a crazy kind of a system, although I admit you shouldn’t be rewarded for losing matches either. It’s about finding that balance.
“The ratio between training and matches should be drastically reduced compared to what it is now. Seven months’ training for three championship matches shouldn’t be the case. I’m not complaining. It’s the same for everyone, but I’d love to have another match to look forward to in a fortnight. Hurling needs to get back to a 12-county competitive structure,” Baker concluded.
CORK: A Nash (0-2, frees); C O’Sullivan, S O’Neill, B Murphy; T Kenny, C Joyce, W Egan; D Sweetnam, L McLoughlin (0-1); C Lehane (0-3), C McCarthy (0-5, 0-3 65s, 0-1 free), P Cronin (0-1); J Coughlan, P O’Sullivan, P Horgan (1-10, 0-7 frees). Subs: D Kearney (0-1) for Sweetnam (40 mins), L O’Farrell for Coughlan (42 mins), C Naughton (0-1) for McLoughlin (53 mins), S Moylan (0-2) for O’Sullivan (63 mins), N McCarthy for Cronin (68 mins).
OFFALY: E Kelly; C Hernon, D Kenny, J Rigney; D Morkan (0-2), R Hannify, D Horan; K Brady, S Ryan (0-1); C Egan (1-0), C Mahon (0-1), B Murphy (0-1); S Dooley (1-6, 1-3 frees, 0-1 65), J Bergin (0-3), B Carroll (0-1). Subs: D Franks for Hernon (23 mins), C Parlon for Carroll (49 mins), D Molloy (0-1) for Murphy (56 mins), D Mooney for Brady (61 mins), T Carroll for Egan (65 mins).
Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).