Cork have two weeks to mend the slow puncture suffered during win over Dublin

Rebels did enough in the second and third quarters of the the game to see it out despite an uninspiring display

Dublin’s John Bellew and Patrick Horgan of Cork. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

All-Ireland SHC quarter-final: Cork 0-26 Dublin 0-21

Taking the positives is like squeezing orange juice; you’re still left with pulp and pips. On Saturday Cork won their fourth championship match in a row - something they hadn’t achieved since 2006 – which is more remarkable given how close they were to elimination in Munster’s annual game of Ker Plunk.

They will travel to Croke Park in a fortnight’s time with a puncher’s chance against Limerick in the All-Ireland semi-final, and the double-edged distinction of being the only team to beat them so far in this year’s championship. But the momentum that Cork surfed for a glorious week in mid-May has subsided to a flat calm.

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Excuses were made for Cork’s anaemic performance against Offaly in the preliminary quarter-final but the exuberance and creativity that has characterized their best performances this summer were largely absent again on Saturday.


Admittedly, there were some environmental factors for the general deadness. Cork and Dublin took the field in Thurles earlier than a weekday episode of Neighbours, and shortly after Telly Bingo. There was nothing in the hurling to stimulate an atmosphere and there was nothing much in the run of play to generate any suspense.

Instead, both teams took the good with the bad. RTÉ logged them taking 41 shots each, but according to Dublin’s internal stats they had 43. By that metric, at least, they had kept pace with one of the most prolific teams in the championship.

Dublin’s Donal Burke accounted for five of his team's misses against Cork. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

The problem for Dublin was that they committed 16 wides. Donal Burke, the leader of their attack and their perennial top scorer, accounted for five of those misses before he was replaced on dead ball duties by the impressive Sean Currie. Burke had averaged 11 points a game so far in this year’s championship and their reliance on him is simply too great to absorb such a sudden downturn.

Cork’s failure to score a goal clearly bothered Pat Ryan. They had been the top goal scorers in Division One of the National League, and until Saturday they had been the only team in the top tier to score a goal in every league and championship game this year.

Against Dublin they created just two clear chances. Eoghan O’Donnell made a terrific block on Patrick Horgan in the first half, after Horgan made a poor shot selection. When he received the ball he had more than enough time and space to make an orthodox strike; instead he took a stride towards goal and attempted a batted finish. O’Donnell smothered the shot.

Late in the second half, Declan Dalton hit a powerful shot from about 20 metres that drew an athletic, diving save from Sean Brennan, but to score from that distance would have needed an exceptional finish.

Alan Connolly failed to score for the second week in a row, but Ryan said that he had been sick before the Offaly game and had missed a fortnight’s training. He had his hands full with O’Donnell on Saturday, like many other full-forwards who have walked down that dark alley.

Dublin’s Danny Sutcliffe is confronted by a number of Cork players. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

“I suppose it was a bit dead,” said Ryan. ”That was the same for both of us, with wides and stuff like that. I think you could see, it’s very hard to have a really high standard match at quarter past one on a Saturday and that’s what we saw.

“[The lack of goals] is a huge disappointment. We know where we’re at as regards the ability that we have in the inside forwards but, in fairness, they defended well.

“They kept fellas back, they were physical in the tackle, they have a very good full-back line - obviously Eoghan O’Donnell’s a fantastic player. From our point of view, we still created chances and probably could have taken a couple of them.”

Cork did enough in the second and third quarters to remove any doubt from the outcome and at one stage early in the second half they pulled nine points clear. With a ten-point haul Horgan drew level with TJ Reid at the top of the all-time scorers’ charts, but he was the only one of Cork’s inside forward line to have a productive afternoon. Shane Barrett, Cork’s most consistent forward this summer, was very good in the first half and quieter after that; the same was true of Seamus Harnedy.

After their annihilation in the Leinster final Dublin cleared their heads and straightened themselves up, but there was a ceiling to their threat. Dublin ran hard at Cork late in the game, and picked off seven of the last ten scores, making hay from Cork’s loss of shape and focus. Their hunt for goals, though, had more heat than light.

Unlike the Leinster final, Dublin settled into the game without much objection from Cork. Their passing was more accurate and not as stressed as it had been against Kilkenny and, early on especially, they had room to breathe.

The sides were level for the last time after just 14 minutes, and in the next half an hour Cork outscored Dublin by 0-15 to 0-4. After that, they picked up a slow puncture. Two weeks to mend it.

Cork: P Collins, N O’Leary, E Downey, S O’Donoghue, T O’Mahony, C Joyce, M Coleman, D Fitzgibbon, L Meade (0-1), D Dalton (0-6, three frees), S Barrett (0-2), S Harnedy (0-2), P Horgan (0-10, seven frees), A Connolly, B Hayes (0-1).

Subs: S Kingston for Harnedy 49 mins; T O’Connell for Meade 49 mins; G Millerick for Fitzgibbon 60 mins; R O’Flynn 0-2 for Hayes 61 mins; C Lehane for Connolly 67 mins

Dublin: S Brennan, J Bellew, E O’Donnell, P Smyth, C Crummey (0-3), C Donohoe, D Gray, B Hayes (0-2), C Burke (0-4), D Sutcliffe, D Burke (0-3, two frees), S Currie (0-6, three frees), D Power, P Crummey, M Grogan.

Subs: R Hayes for P Crummey (temporary 44 mins – 70+4); P Doyle (0-1) for Gray 48 mins; D O’Dulaing for Grogan 54 mins; J Madden for Donohoe 60 mins; F Whitely for B Hayes 64 mins

Referee: Michael Kennedy (Tipperary)

Denis Walsh

Denis Walsh

Denis Walsh is a sports writer with The Irish Times