All-Ireland GAA Football Championship Qualifier Round 4 – Cork 2-20 Down 0-14

Clinical Cork canter into last eight

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GAA Football Senior Championship Qualifiers Round 4

Cork 2-20 Down 0-14

Cork moved into the quarter-finals of the GAA Football Senior Championship for the seventh straight season after a comfortable 12-point defeat of Down in a one-sided Round 4 Qualifier at Croke Park on Sunday. Cork led by 2-8 to 0-9 at the break after first half goals from Donncha O’Connor and substitute Fintan Goold left the defending champions in a commanding position. Although Peter Fitzpatrick did force a brilliant save from Cork goalkeeper Alan Quirke three minutes into the second half, the Rebels took complete control of the game with a match-winning spell 10 minutes into the second half.

To make matters worse from a Down point of view, their playmaker Martin Clarke was sent off in the 57th minute following a second yellow card offence. With Clarke set to return to Australia to pursue his AFL career at the end of the year, it would appear to be a particularly disappointing end to the An Ríocht man’s two-year return to Gaelic football. After last year’s All-Ireland final between the sides ended in the narrowest of wins for the Rebels, it was remarkable just how much the Mourne men appear to have regressed since then. After flickering back to life at the start of the second half, James McCartan’s players appeared to lose their stomach for the battle and a relentless Cork attack showed no mercy when they smelled blood.

Incredibly, 10 Cork players got their name on the scoresheet, though it was Donncha O’Connor who led the way with 1-7, double his tally in the All-Ireland final against the Mourne men last September. The only sour note from the Rebels’ point of view was an ankle injury sustained by forward Daniel Goulding, who was forced off the field after 20 minutes. However, there is hope that Goulding will be back for the quarter-finals when it was confirmed that he had not sustained any long-term damage. Given Cork were already short cruciate victims Ciaran Sheehan and Colm O’Neill and were missing Goulding for most of the game, it must have been comforting for Cork manager Conor Counihan to see some of his more peripheral players step up to the plate. Goold, in the side in place of Sheehan, showed his worth with Cork’s second goal as well as two points from play in an eye-catching display.

The game started in whirlwind fashion. The sides were level at 0-2 apiece inside three minutes. It was a portent of what was to follow for the remainder of a brilliant first half, as both sides went toe-to-toe in a game of old-fashioned, attacking football. Cork made two changes to their defence, as Graham Canty and Jamie O’Sullivan were left out of the starting XV, with Eoin Cotter and Eoin Cadogan, as had been widely expected, coming into the side. Michael Shields was handed man-marking duties on Benny Coulter, while Noel O’Leary was assigned the role of shadowing Down playmaker Clarke. However, neither defence shone in the opening half, and Down looked in real trouble when their goal was breached for the first time after just 11 minutes.

Already trailing 0-3 to 0-2, Goulding found his partner in the inside forward line, Donncha O’Connor, with a brilliant pass and the Ballydesmond man finished low past Brendan McVeigh to give his side a five-point lead. Cork’s second goal came 13 minutes later. This time the Down defence went AWOL. Alan O’Connor found centre-forward Paddy Kelly in space and the Ballincollig man made a mazy run before finding Goold, whose cool finish under pressure was superb. After a helter-skelter first 25 minutes, the tempo of the game finally abated and the sides split four points evenly between before the break and Cork led by five at half-time.

The gap was down to four when Clarke landed a free on the restart, but when Fitzpatrick’s shot was saved by Quirke a minute later, it seemed that Down had missed their big chance. And so it proved as Cork made their break for the line in a devastating 10-minute spell. They hit four points without reply to extend their lead to 2-15 to 0-10 by the 56th minute. By this point, Cork had brought in Canty and the Cork captain’s cameo included a fisted point when he popped up to finish a move he had started in his own half. With Clarke already sent off, it had turned into a procession for Cork. Donncha O’Connor kicked the last point of the game to bring his total to 1-7, as Cork coasted into the quarter-finals with the most comprehensive win imaginable.

Cork Scorers: G Canty 0-1, J Miskella P Kissane 0-1, A Walsh 0-1, F Goold 1-2, P Kelly 0-2, P O’Neill 0-1, D Goulding 0-1 (0-1f), D O’Connor 1-7 (0-4f), P Kerrigan 0-3.

Down Scorers: K McKernan 0-1, C Garvey 0-1, D Hughes 0-1, M Poland 0-1, C Maginn 0-1, C Laverty 0-1, B Coulter 0-2, M Clarke 0-3 (0-2f), P McComiskey 0-2, A Rogers 0-1.

Cork: A Quirke; E Cadogan, M Shields, E Cotter; 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. Subs: B O’Driscoll for Goulding (20, inj), F Lynch for B O’Driscoll (29), G Canty for N O’Leary (51), M Collins for A Walsh (60), R Carey for E Cadogan (64).

Down: 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, M Clarke. Subs: P Fitzpatrick for K King (34), Caolan Mooney for D Hughes (42), A Rogers for a McArdle (45), D O’Hagan for A Branagan (49), P McComiskey for C Maginn (54).

Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo)

Attendance: 31,072


2011 Championship

Cork 5-17 Waterford 2-8; Kerry 1-15 Cork 1-12.

Armagh 1-15 Down 1-10; Down 1-13 Clare 1-12; Down 1-16 Leitrim 1-8; Down 3-13 Antrim 0-10.

Match Preview

A re-run of last year’s All-Ireland final which Cork won by a point (0-16 to 0-15). That was only their second meeting in championship history, having first met in the 1994 All-Ireland semi-final when Down won by 1-13 to 0-11.

Last year’s All-Ireland final provided a fascinating encounter where fortunes swayed from side to side before Cork finally edged home by a point. Down led by 0-7 to 0-2 after 27 minutes but Cork fought back and were three points clear after 68 minutes before Down pulled two back. Daniel Goulding (0-9) and Donncha O’Connor (0-5) were Cork’s top scorers while Martin Clarke (0-3), Danny Hughes (0-3) and Paul McComiskey (0-3) were Down’s leading marksmen.

Team News

Cork team to play Down in the All-Ireland SFC fourth round qualifer at Croke Park on Saturday 23 July (6pm): Alan Quirke; Jamie O’Sullivan, Graham Canty (c), Michael Shields; Noel O’Leary, John Miskella, Paudie Kissane; Alan O’Connor, Aidan Walsh; Fintan Goold, Paddy Kelly, Pearse O’Neill; Daniel Goulding, Donncha O’Connor, Paul Kerrigan