Cork reinstated their credentials for retaining the All-Ireland football championship with a big win over last year’s beaten finalists Down in Croke Park, with a final score of 2-20 to 0-14.
Donncha O’Connor was in flying form, notching 1-7 after he topped off his fine display with a point from a free in what was the last kick of the game.
The first half was a closely fought encounter with both teams exchanging points as soon as the other got one but Cork pulled away with their two goals, which provided a platform for the second half dominance as Down were always chasing the game.
Donncha O’Connor’s goal came in the 10th minute of the game after a brilliantly incisive ball from Daniel Goulding from the left found O’Connor just at the inside of Down’s box and a cool and low finish from him put Cork four points in the lead.
Down hit straight back with two points from Benny Coulter and Conor Maginn but Cork’s Fintan Goold and Paddy Kelly regained their four point advantage within the first 15 minutes.
A major blow to Cork came in the 20th minute when Daniel Goulding, hero of last year’s final and creator of Cork’s goal, was forced to come off with an injury with Barry O’Driscoll replacing him.
Mark Poland had a chance to reduce the gap to just one point in the 23rd minute but his poor effort went wide and Cork made Down rue that miss with a goal in the 24th minute.
The goal came after a great run from Paddy Kelly, when the winger cut inside from the right and found Fintan Goold in space at the edge of the Down box; Goold’s finish was calm and effortless as his sidefooted shot fooled the defence and Brendan
McVeigh in goals as it trickled in the bottom corner of the net.
Cork started to pull away from Down with points from Donncha O’Connor and Paul
Kerrigan but Down kept themselves in it with a point from Kevin McKernan in stoppage time of the first half.
Perhaps the decisive moment of the second half was Alan Quirke’s brilliant save after Peter Fitzpatrick was through on goal but the Cork keeper matched his shot with a fine diving save.
Down would have only been two points behind if that goal had gone in but instead their heads dropped after the miss and Cork showed their dominance both in attack and defence from then on.
Down couldn’t penetrate Cork’s back line and showed no urgency to mark up in their own half as Cork found some joy down the right hand side which allowed points for Goold, Donncha O’Connor and substituted captain Graham Canty coming up from the back.
Frustration got the better of Down as Conor Laverty and Conor Maginn were booked for silly fouls and Marty Clarke put the final nail in the Mourne Men’s coffin when he was sent off in the 57th minute.
Sub Paul McComiskey tried to pull a few back for Down with two points in the same number of minutes but his efforts were like a drop in the ocean; Cork scored through the likes of John Miskella, Paddy Kelly, Aidan Walsh and the last one from Donncha O’Connor.
Down had a late penalty shot but the referee waved play on and the game ended with the Ulster team 12 points behind the current champions.
Cork seem to have gotten over their defeat to Kerry in the Munster final and now look a very reasonable bet to lift the Sam Maguire in September.
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Cork 2-20 v 0-14 Down
70min: Donncha O’Connor scores a free as the ref blows the whistle for full time. Cork’s second half perfomance blitzed Down and exposed their defence.
69min: Paddy Kelly scores a point for Cork as there will be 1 minute of injury time.
68min: Conor Laverty gets his first point of the game but it seems too little too late as Cork are 10 points ahead with 2 minutes plus stoppage time to go.
64min: Penalty shouts for Down as Benny Coulter goes over in the Cork box, the referee waves play on however.
63min: John Miskella scores again for Cork.
62min: Rogers gets on the end of Mark Poland’s storming run and probably should’ve scored a goal but will settle for a point.
59min: Aidan Walsh scores a long range point for Cork. It’s looking to easy for the Rebels now.
58min: Graham Canty hand passes it over the line for another point for Cork.
57min: Marty Clarke is sent off after a second yellow for an off the ball incident. Down’s remote chances have been dashed significantly.
56min: McComiskey scores again in what could’ve been a goal scoring chance but the angle was tight and a point was probably the right decision.
55min: Sub Paul McComiskey scores Down’s first point for 17 minutes. They’ve been outplayed in the second half by the champions.
54min: Donncha O’Connor scores from the free. That’s 1-06 now for O’Connor.
53min: Conor Maginn is booked for a high arm on a Cork player.
52min: A bit of frustration for Down as Conor Laverty fouls Canty. Cork are showing their confidence at the moment.
51min: Kerrigan hits another point again as Cork captain Graham Canty comes on for Cork, in place of Noel O’Leary.
50min: Aidan Brannigan is replaced by Darragh O’Hagan for Down.
49min: Kerrigan increases Cork’s lead with a point from just outside Down’s box.
48min: Marty Clarke hits the post again.
48min: Noel O’Leary gets a yellow card after multiple fouls.
46min: Fintan Goold adds another with a point from the right after a pass from O’Neill. Cork enjoying a lot of success down the right hand side.
46min: Donncha O’Connor scores from the free, great point by O’Connor, having a brilliant game.
45min: Goold is fouled by Down newcomer Mooney.
43min: Donncha O’Connor gets on the end of a pass from Eoin Cadogan to score again for Cork.
42min: Down’s attack peters out as Caolon Mooney comes on for Danny Hughes.
40min: Alan O’Connor’s run down the right ends with a point for Cork after Donncha O’Connor finished the move.
39min: Fintan Goold hits another wide for Cork.
39min: Kerrigan shoots wide for Cork.
38min: Alan Quirke makes an outstanding save from Peter Fitzpatrick’s shot, Down miss a great opportunity to score a goal.
37min: Down start the second half with a free in just outside Cork’s box. Marty Clarke scores a point from the free.
36min: The game gets underway for the second half.
Half time: The referee blows for half time. Cork are in control of the game but it’s not a lost cause for Down. Their forwards will need to be more clinical in the second half to reduce the deficit on the Rebels.
35min+added time: Cork come close to a point but Down counter which ends in a poor effort from Marty Clarke. Alan O’Connor is booked after his hand makes significant contact with Benny Coulter’s face.
35min: 2 minutes added time as Kevin McKernan scores a brilliant point for Down after some patient play from the Ulster team.
34min: Hughes is booked for Down as Paul Kerrigan hits a point for Cork; now 6 points ahead before half time.
33min: Coulter makes a good run but his shot is poor and no trouble for Cork keeper Alan Quirke.
32min: Fintan Gould’s great run into Down’s half ends with a point for Donncha O’Connor.
31min: Clarke scores a point from the resultant free kick.
30min: Great play by Down between Coulter and Kevin McKernan but is fouled by Michael Shields who is booked for his troubles. A cynical foul by the Cork defender but it may have stopped a goal so he will take the yellow.
28min: Despite Cork’s dominance of possession, there hasn’t been a score in over 5 minutes and Down haven’t scored in over 10.
27min: Cork attack again but a sloppy pass from Alan O’Connor ends their attack. Cork on the front again however, controlling play with most of the possession.
26min: The Cork attack is eventually quashed by Down’s Dan Gordon.
25min: Marty Clarke hits the post with a free and Cork rush forward on the break.
24min: Fintan Goold scores another goal for Cork after an unselfish pass from Paddy Kelly. Great finish by Goold.
23min: Mark Poland should’ve closed the gap on Cork after a free but the centre half forward puts it wide, poor miss.
22min: Donncha O’Connor converts the free with a point and gives Cork a bit of breathing space.
21min: Dan Gordon is booked for a foul on the new Cork player O’Driscoll. Free to Cork on the edge of the box.
20min: Goulding comes off and is replaced by Barry O’Driscoll. That’s a blow to Cork’s forward line as it was Goulding’s defence splitting pass that created Cork’s goal.
19min: Benny Coulter shows no sympathy as he adds another point for Down, just one point in it now.
18min: It looks to be the end of Daniel Goulding’s game as the Cork man is limping on the sideline.
17min: Mark Poland gets on the score sheet after intelligent play down the left side from Coulter.
16min: Down’s Danny Hughes scores a good point from the right flank.
15min: Paddy Kelly adds another for Cork, 4 points in it now.
14min: Fintan Gould scores a point for Cork as the Rebels maintain their lead.
13min: Conor Macginn scores a great point for Down; back to two points the difference.
12min: Coulter hits back for Down with a point and it’s the Mourne Men’s first point in over ten minutes.
10min: Donncha O’Connor gets on the end of Daniel Goulding’s pass and finishes well at the near post, Cork score the first goal.
9min: Cork moving the ball well in midfield but their passage of possession ends with a wide from Alan O’Connor.
7min: Daniel Goulding scores the free, Cork take the lead.
7min: Clarke shoots at the Cork goal but not a convincing effort as Cork take it down the field and earn a free in; Kerrigan with another run to gain the free.
6min: Paul Kerrigan hit Cork’s first wide.
4min: Marty Clarke is booked for a tackle on Noel O’Leary who leaves the field to get attention to a cut to the head.
3min: Pearce O’Neill comes close to a goal but Brendan McVeigh makes a great save and pushed it over the bar, a point to Cork.
2min: Down hit back with two, firstly from Conor Garvey and the second from Marty Clarke.
1min: Cork get the game underway with a point from Pauly Kissane.
0min It’s nearly time for kick off at Croke Park.
Cork and Down will replay the excitement of last year’s final on Saturday in their All-Ireland Senior Football Championship fourth round qualifier in Croke Park, throw in at 6pm.
Fintan Goold has been called upon by Cork boss Conor Counihan to bolster the Rebels’ attack and he will replace Ciarán Sheehan at wing forward as Sheehan’s knee injury will keep him out for the rest of the campaign.
The current champions will be coming up against a Down side that comfortably beat Antrim in the third round and put three goals past them, almost with ease.
Conor Laverty, Marty Clarke and teenager Caolan Mooney got the goals last weekend at Casement Park and Down manager James McCartan will be looking for a repeat performance if they want to avoid a similar fate as to last year’s All-Ireland final at Croke Park, when Cork beat the Mourne Men by a single point.
Despite a good start against Antrim, Down allowed the visitors to get back into the game but they pulled themselves back in front thanks to Mark Poland’s kicking in the first half and Marty Clarke’s efforts in the second half.
Daniel Goulding will be remembering last year’s final against Down with hope for a similar point tally he enjoyed that day in September; the Cork man kicked over half his county’s points, ending the game with nine.
Conor Counihan’s lack of changes to the side that lost to Kerry shows his faith in his team and full back Graham Canty continues in that position even after a shaky first half performance in the Munster final against Kerry.
Cork’s performance in the second half against Kerry in that game will be an encouraging sign to take from that loss as they nearly overturned Kerry’s first half eight point lead.
The game ended 1-15 to 1-12 in Kerry’s favour but that score line does not tell how close Cork were to equalising in the final minutes of the game, as Kerry only scored three points in normal time in the second half and added two in injury time to put a gloss on the victory.
Cork team: A Quirke; J O’Sullivan, G Canty, M Shields; N O’Leary, J Miskella, P Kissane; A O’Connor, A Walsh; F Goold, P Kelly, P O’Neill; D Goulding, D O’Connor, P Kerrigan.
Down team: B McVeigh, A Branagan, D Gordon, G McCartan, D Rooney, K McKernan, C Garvey, K King, A McArdle, D Hughes, M Poland, C Maginn, C Laverty, B Coulter (capt), M Clarke.
Down team: TBA
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