NFL Division One Final: Cork’s battlers expose Dublin flaws . . . again
Dublin 2-14 Cork 0-21: Are Dublin simply destined not to win a major title?
This is the question uppermost in the minds of their fans today as they contemplate yet another major morale-shattering setback.
The National League crown may not quite top manager Pat Gilroy’s shopping list but the manner in which his side surrendered a golden opportunity to take delivery of gaelic football’s second most important prize at Croke Park yesterday will surely raise further questions about their ability to recapture ‘Sam’ after a 16-year famine.
Unbeaten in seven league games until this renewal of rivalry with the reigning League and All-Ireland champions, the Dubs had been expected to further emphasise the message that this would truly be their year.
Instead, their soft underbelly was exposed by a Cork side that, while falling short of the high standards they have set for themselves, nonetheless underlined that honest graft, a communal spirit and fierce resolve can prove adequate replacements for subtle artistry, fluent cohesion and silken skills.
Defeat is invariably a bitter pill to swallow but any team enjoying a seven point advantage with half an hour to go and yet scoring only one more point from play prior to capitulating surely has grounds for urgent self-analysis.
To add insult to injury from a Dublin perspective, golden boy Bernard Brogan limped out of the action with a suspected hamstring injury in the 49th minute.
The Dubs could not have asked for a better start, either. By the sixth minute they were 1-1 to 0-1 ahead, Brogan having ghosted in from the left to tee up the perfect pass for Tómas Quinn who flashed the ball to the Cork net.
Yet even when the hugely impressive Kevin McManamon along with Michael Darragh Macauley and Diarmuid Connolly tacked on points, Dublin did not quite exude an air of total confidence.
Their vulnerability surfaced when Cork plundered four unanswered points between the 15th and 19th minutes, Daniel Goulding (2), man of the match Jer |O’Sullivan and Fintan Goold all on target to level matters at 1-4 to |0-7. Yet Gilroy’s men still managed to sweep into overdrive before the break, McManamon (2), Quinn and Barry Cahill flighting over points to give them a 1-10 to 0-10 interval advantage.
And it got even better, Brogan lashing home a 38th minute goal to complement points from Kevin Nolan and Connolly that had their side about to take up residence on easy street at 2-12 to 0-11.
But Ciaran Sheehan (2) and Pearse O’Neill drilled over points before the latter and Goulding from a free recorded further scores to close the gap to 2-13 to 0-15.
And from then on the last rites were being administered to Dublin’s league title hopes.
Cork took complete command swooping for six rapid-fire points that allowed them to squeeze past their by now hapless opponents.
Dublin: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimmons, P Brogan, P McMahon; B Cahill (0-1), G Brennan, K Nolan (0-1); D Bastick, MD Macauley (0-1); P Flynn, K McManamon (0-5, B Cullen; T Quinn (1-3, 0-1 free), D Connolly (0-2), B Brogan (1-1). Subs: D Daly for Cullen (47 mins), P Burke for Brogan (49), D Kelly for Connolly (54), P Andrews for Daly (62), D Lally for Cahill (71).
Cork: K O'Halloran; R Carey, M Shields, J O'Sullivan (0-1); N O'Leary (0-1), J Miskella, P Kissane; A O'Connor, P O’Neill (0-2); P Kerrigan, P Kelly (0-3), F Goold (0-1); D Goulding (0-4, 0-2 frees), D O'Connor (0-4, 0-2 frees), C Sheehan (0-4). Subs: D O’Sullivan for Miskella (22 mins), David Goold for Kerrigan (35), F Lynch (0-1) for Goold (55), N Murphy for O’Connor (64).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).