Ruthless Cork roll back the years to dispatch outgunned Laois
The Rebels are rampant in the second-half as they book their place in the Super 8s in style
Brian Hurley scores one of his two goals in Cork’s win over Laois. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho
Cork 4-20 Laois 1-15
Under a leaden Saturday evening sky Thurles Town became a portal to the past: Paul Kerrigan hoofs to the net, that Cork ruthless seemingly back, and the Leesiders march to a 14-point win. Cork, it seems, are very much back.
The Banks of my own Lovely Lee won’t be ringing out over the Croke Park public address system this September but such an occurrence is closer now than at any point during the last half-decade. For the first time since 2014, Cork can be considered one of the best eight sides in the country.
The five-point lead Cork had constructed by half-time was probably a fair reflection of proceedings. What happened immediately after the interval, however, was reminiscent of All-Ireland contenders. Cork quenched the hope of Laois with 2-3 without reply, the second a belter from Brian Hurley. Ruthless.
With Mark Collins in menacing form throughout, exhibiting all the characteristics of Midas, the Laois defence too often found themselves befuddled with the movement around them. Much of that, however, was the result of Ruairi Deane’s continued run of scintillating form, the Bantry Blues man demonstrating that ability to find an inch of space before carving open a defence. Allied with his ability to pick out a pass, Collins being on the end of many, Laois had the subject of their half-time team talk: limiting the space afforded to Deane and cutting off Collins as an option inside. Mountains would be easier moved.
“We thought there was an angle or two to work on in the second half with regard to gather ourselves and trying to get back into the game,” said Laois manager John Sugrue shortly after the final whistle. “But they sucker-punched us twice and there’s lots of things [to look at] with regards to pressing the ball out the field, winning our own kick-outs, and the pressure on their inside line.
“We were just marginally off where we needed to be.”
And yet Laois’ appetite for that golden ticket into the Super 8s was glaringly evident. If anything they appeared hungrier than their opponents early on. The same class just wasn’t there.
Sugrue’s men, playing to their own strengths, went old-school, launching long balls just in front of Donie Kingston who seemed to be double-jobbing on both the half and full-forward line.
The Laois forward unit scampered around enthusiastically, though everything appeared to revolve around the big man. And Cork had more than enough answers.
Despite the nature of the win there remains scope for improvement in Cork, which can only be viewed as major positive heading into a Super-8s group with both of last year’s All-Ireland finalists, as well as soaring Roscommon.
“I’d be disappointed with the last 20 minutes of the game – it got very sloppy,” said Cork manager Ronan McCarthy from outside his side’s dressingroom.
Utterly, utterly ruthless.
“The message we’ve given the players throughout my time in charge is the scoreline doesn’t matter. You keep doing the right things. If you’re losing by five or winning by five, you keep doing the right things. And we didn’t do that.
“But to be going up and playing the All-Ireland champions in Croke Park, this team will revel in that challenge. It’s where they need to be and they’re looking forward to it.”
Just as All-Ireland contenders inevitably pull away, Cork made their move early in the second half and were never going to be stopped, Kerrigan providing the final flourish in the closing minutes.
Foisting All-Ireland credentials on Cork would be a tad rash at present – taking note, on the other hand, is not.
If given an opportunity, they’ll grasp it and they’ll make hay.
Cork: Mark White; Kevin Flahive, James Loughrey, Kevin O’Donovan; Liam O’Donovan (0-1), Thomas Clancy, Mattie Taylor; Ian Maguire, Killian O’Hanlon; Kevin O’Driscoll (0-1), Sean White, Ruairi Deane (0-2); Luke Connolly, Brian Hurley (2-4), Mark Collins (1-8, four frees). Subs: Ronan O’Toole (0-1) for O’Hanlon (21 min), Paul Kerrigan (1-1) for Connolly (half-time), Tomás Clancy for Clancy (44), Aidan Browne for Loughrey (46), Michael Hurley for Hurley (53), Stephen Cronin for Maguire (61), Stephen Sherlock (0-2, 1’45) for Deane (66). Yellow cards: Tomás Clancy (43), Ian Maguire (55).
Laois: Graham Brody; Stephen Attride, Denis Booth, Gareth Dillon; Trevor Collins (0-1), Robert Pigott, Patrick O’Sullivan; John O’Sullivan, Kieran Lillis; Daniel O’Reilly, Donal Kingston (0-9, six frees), Martin Scully (1-0); Eoin Lowry (0-1), Colm Murphy (0-1), Paul Kingston (0-1). Subs: Colm Begley for O’Sullivan (half-time), Evan O’Carroll (0-1) for P Kingston (44 min), Sean Byrne for O’Reilly (46), Mark Barry (0-1) for Murphy (46), David Seale for Booth (57), Sean O’Flynn for Dillon (62). Yellow cards: Trevor Collins (18), Martin Scully (19), Denis Booth (43), John O’Loughlin (55).
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford)