Cork 4-11 Down 0-10 – National Football League

Cork: A. Quirke; R. Carey; M. Shields (0-1); E. Cadogan (E. Cotter); N. O’Leary (S. Kiely); G. Canty; P. Kissane; A. O’Connor (0-1; N. Murphy); P. O’Neill (0-1); F. Goold (0-1; L. Shorten); M. Collins (0-1); P. Kelly (3-0); B. O’Driscoll (0-2); D. O’Connor (1-4; 1-3f); F. Lynch (P. Kerrigan).

Down: B. McVeigh; D. Turley; D. McCartan (C. Garvey); O. Costello (B. McArdle); G. McCartan (K. McKernan); L. Doyle (0-2f); K. Quinn; P. Turley (A. McArdle); D. Gordon (0-1); D. Hughes; A. Carr (0-5; 0-4f); A. Brannigan (0-1); B. Coulter; C. Laverty(0-1); M. Poland (C. Magin).

Cork brushed aside a timid Down showing in Cork in an altogether more impressive performance from Conor Counihan’s charges after last week’s draw against Armagh. Bar the opening fifteen minutes after Down raced into a three point lead Cork were always in control and after two quick Patrick Kelly goals before half time Down essentially gave up. It should be said Down were missing a third of their first team and were heavily out-matched in the physical stakes, particularly problematic considering the heavy underfoot conditions – however the many Down fans that travelled down can’t be happy with the lack of effort on display. For the Cork support however, this was a clinical and assured victory, regardless of the opposition.

For Cork, and in direct contrast to the Armagh game, our forward division really impressed. Donnacha O’Connor and Mark Collins were the pick of the bunch – the former was excellent under the dropping ball and took his penalty brilliantly, while the latter was lively all day and offers the kind of intelligent movement often lacking from the Cork attack. Both players were at the heart of all of Cork’s good attacking moves. Elsewhere Patrick Kelly took all three of his goals with patience and showed that along with O’Connor he is our most reliable finisher in front of goal while the inexperienced Barry O’Driscoll tried hard and tapped over two decent points. Fiachra Lynch was error prone for the thirty minutes he was on the pitch, and although his replacement Kerrigan made an immediate impact one has to wonder about the worth of starting a young player like Lynch only to sub him after a couple of mistakes. All in all though the forwards were excellent, despite Down keeping twelve plus men in their half of the pitch for large parts of the game, although it should be said this is a notoriously poor Down defence, regardless of how many bodies they get behind the ball.

Elsewhere, our midfield had a fine game in terms of winning possession – Alan O’Connor in particular – but again the distribution forward was either too slow or inaccurate, a serious and long term problem that has yet to be solved. Our backs had little work to do – Down played a two man full forward line for most of the game, their half-forward line often in their own half of the pitch. Nonetheless, there were no obvious errors defensively while Quirke had a assured return to goals. One worrying point however was the injury and replacement of Eoin Cadogan, and the lack of game time for both Sean Kiely and Denis O’Sullivan.

For Down, there is very little to be said. The fact that their full-back was replaced in the opening half says much about the performance of their backs who managed to concede 4-11 despite having considerable support in numbers from their midfielders and half-forwards. Laverty looked lively the two or so times he got the ball but beyond him Down were rudderless. Despite flooding players back there was no intensity or aggression in the tackle nor did they effectively stop Cork’s running game at any stage with Alan O’Connor and Fintan Goold over-running them in the middle of the pitch. Moreover they basically gave up on the back of Kelly’s two goals in the first half. All in all Down were as poor as one can imagine a division 1 team to be. Still, none of these points will trouble Cork, who are now pretty much safe from relegation and hopefully focused on getting a playoff spot from here on out.

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