Cork in seventh heaven

September 21, 2010

All-Ireland final Down 0-15 Cork 0-16

The predictions that this All-Ireland final would go right to the wire were never so true as Down lost their unblemished final record by the minimum in a pulsating contest. Down people and manager James McCartan will be wondering how this one slipped away as they looked like the better team and should have been further ahead at the short whistle as Cork failed to score from play in the opening half-hour.

But true to their performances all year, Cork finished the game very strong to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and leave Down distraught after seeing their hopes destroyed by Daniel Goulding (0-9) and Donnacha O’Connor (0-5) who contributed all but two of the Rebel County’s scores. Another major contribution came from Cork manager Conor Counihan who utilised the bench to good effect as his team finished strongest.

As was widely expected, there was a late change to the Cork starting XV, with John Miskella drafted in at centre half back in place of Graham Canty. With Ambrose Rogers absent for Down, this meant that both teams started the 2010 All-Ireland final without their respective captains.

With a light breeze behind them, Cork played into the Hill 16 side in the first half and midfielder Alan O’Connor hit a disappointing wide after only ten seconds as Cork opened up the Down defence with ease. Brendan McVeigh had to make a magnificent save to deny Ciaran Sheehan a goal and from the rebound, Sheehan punched the ball goalwards but Dan McCartan was on the goal-line to make a vital intervention. The Leesiders were awarded a free from their next attack and Goulding opened the scoring from in front of the posts. Down weatherd the early onslaught as Benny Coulter registered a wide before 5 minutes in Daniel Hughes got Down’s opening score from close to the 45. Paul McComiskey and Coulter added to Down’s wides tally before the former put the Ulster county ahead on nine minutes, benefiting from a John Clarke knockdown. But Hughes registered a fourth Down wide when he should have scored; Paul Kerrigan was even further off target at the other end of the pitch.

Kevin Mc Kernan’s foul on Paul Kerrigan culminated in another pointed Goulding free from the deck in the 13th minute to level at 0-2 each. In the 14th minute, Marty Clarke drilled the ball between the posts from a free that had been moved closer to goal by referee Coldrick for dissent.

When his older brother John Clarke came out the field and gathered possession before thumping between the posts again, Down led by 0-4 to 0-2. And there were three points between the sides when Marty Clarke knocked over his second point from another placed ball before McComiskey got on the end of a fantastic move to pop between the posts in the 18th minute: 0-6 to 0-2. Down’s defence had settled well into the game and was dealing competently with everything Cork could muster.

Like Down in the beginning Cork defence was all over the place when the very impressive Hughes fisted his second point in the 27th minute: 0-7 to 0-2. Alan Quirke beat Coulter to a dropping ball to concede a 45, which Martin Clarke drilled wide.

Donnacha O’Connor struck a free over the bar from distance in the 31st minute and Goulding finally knocked over the Rebels’ first score from play mere seconds later. Cork had done precious little in the opening half hour but found themselves only three points adrift after 32 minutes, 0-7 to 0-4.Coulter fielded majestically in front of the Cork goal, drawing a free which Marty Clarke stroked between the posts to make it double scores. In the last minute of first-half normal time, Donnacha O’Connor delivered a magnificent point from play to once more reduce the arrears to three. McVeigh made a good save from Paul Kerrigan, who shot from an acute angle and Dan Gordon collected Goulding’s poorly-struck effort to preserve Downs paltry three-point cushion at the break as their play deserved more.

Cork introduced Nicholas Murphy at midfield for the second half and he made an immediate impression as he winded Peter Fitzpatrick with a late tackle and Down were unlucky when McComiskey’s left-footed shot came back off an upright, with the Clarke brothers again instrumental. In the 39th minute, McComiskey collected a beautiful pass from Hughes and sent a raking shot through the uprights off his right foot. Goalkeeper McVeigh’s fouled Sheehan after the ball came off the upright and presented Goulding with a simple pointed free and Cork were back within three points five minutes after the restart.

Six minutes into the second half, Cork captain Canty entered the fray as the game swung his team’s way courtesy of a very harsh free in front of the posts when Paul Kerrigan slipped and Goulding had no problems closing the gap to two: 0-7 to 0-9 after 43 minutes.The Meath whistler then gave yellow cards to Fitzpatrick and Dan Gordon for little or nothing. Mark Poland kicked an exquisite point in the tenth minute of the second half before aiding defender Michael Shields set up a third Donnacha O’Connor point. Two in it again, twelve minutes into the second half. Goulding’s fifth point had them back within a point on 47 minutes eventhough only two Cork players had scored.

In the 51st minute Sheehan – the youngest player on the pitch – clipped over a lovely point to level the scores at 0-10 each. The momentum was all with the Leesiders now but a superb McKernan point restored Down’s lead after good play from Marty Clarke and Poland.

When Gordon fouled O’Connor, the Cork full forward had no difficulty in tying up the scores from the resultant free. Fifteen minutes from the end, Kerrigan ran at the heart of the Down defence and booted a lovely point off his left foot to put the Rebel County in front.

Substitute Colm O’Neill struck a post but Goulding found the range from a 45 to put his team two points ahead. The tide had turned completely in the Rebels’ favour and they led by three points. Goulding popped over his second 45 in as many minutes, the No.13’s eighth point of the game made it 0- 14 to 0-11. Fitzpatrick knocked over a great Down point on 63 minutes after some tremendous play from Coulter, who shipped a couple of hefty tackles. O’Connor arced over a sensational Cork point four minutes from the end and Down replied instantly with one from substitute Ronan Murtagh. Goulding was having a dream day and his third converted 45 extended the Rebels’ lead again before Coulter got under Marty Clarke’s delivery to drill a 14th Down point with a minute left. Hughes fisted his third point from a Marty Clarke sideline ball in the first of two added minutes and the atmosphere was electric as this epic match reached its climax. Down needed possession from the kick out but O Neill won the ball. As Down struggled to get it out of defence to launch an attack the final whistle blew as Cork held on to win their first All-Ireland in 20 years

The amount of possession in the middle third of the field gained by Cork eventually paid dividends as the Down full back line just could not cope under intense pressure with Goulding and O Connor taking full advantage.

Cork- Alan Quirke; Eoghan Cadogan, Michael Shields, Ray Carey; Noel O’Leary, John Miskella, Paudie Kissane; Alan O’Connor, Aidan Walsh; Ciaran Sheehan (0-1), Pearse O’Neill, Pa Kelly, Daniel Goulding (0-9), Donnacha O’Connor (0-6), Paul Kerrigan (0-1). Subs: Nicholas Murphy, Graham Canty, Colm O’Neill, Derek Kavanagh, Fintan Goold.

Down,- Brendan McVeigh; Dan McCartan, Dan Gordon, Damien Rafferty; Declan Rooney, Kevin McKernan (0-1), Conor Garvey; Peter Fitzpatrick (0-1), Kalum King; Daniel Hughes (0-3), Mark Poland (0-1), Benny Coulter (0-1); Paul McComiskey (0-3), John Clarke (0-1), Martin Clarke (0-3). Subs: Conor Maginn, Ronan Murtagh (0-1), Benny McArdle, Aidan Brannigan, Conor Laverty.