All roads lead to Tullamore after much-needed dose of positivity for Cork football

A win, a lifeline and a much needed shot of positivity for Cork football.

This first win for Cork in the league – and the first of any competition in nine and a half weeks – means there is not a single road that does not lead to Tullamore for Sunday’s winners clash. in scrap for the survival of the Division 2.

Cork’s four-point win yesterday afternoon, coupled with Offaly’s 10-point thrashing at home to Roscommon, gives the Rebels a superior scoring difference ahead of the relegation play-off and should proceedings finish level at O ‘Connor Park is the Fidèle who will move to Division 3.

Already confirmed for the League’s third tier in 2023 are down, with this fifth league defeat dooming James McCartan’s charges of Division 3 fare next season and likely Tailteann Cup involvement in the months to come.

What will have gnawed at the Mournemen on their long journey home is that they had a say in the outcome that sealed their fate. Visitors Páirc Uí Chaoimh, as they developed further, squandered a host of scoring opportunities by slipping into the ascendant around the hour mark.

Back in Cork, and as desperately needed as that victory is, a win over a winless Down team doesn’t magically solve all the issues and problems that have been so evident inside the whiteout over the past few weeks.

Just yesterday Cork was so porous at the back and wasn’t it Down’s waste in front of Micheal Martin’s goal which included 11 assists, two more efforts that hit the post and two missed green flag openings, the result could have been fatal for the hosts.

Down’s 30 shots eclipsed Cork’s 22, but what ultimately decided the result was Cork’s 77% conversion rate against his opponents’ 43%.

Based on these stats alone, it’s no wonder that averaging 0-11 per game this spring, Down has the worst record of any county in all four divisions.

After Cork’s three in a row to nullify Tiarnan Rushe’s 47th-minute goal and restore their four-point cushion (1-12 to 1-8), McCartan’s charges responded with a straight three of their own at again leave the minimum between them.

The visitors could have easily hit the front during this spell as a high ball floating in the danger zone was narrowly hit by Darren O’Hagan. It was the second scoring opportunity denied by the struggling northerners as Anthony Doherty had his first-half drive deflected for a 45 by Martin.

A point from sub Mark Cronin in the 66th minute, after a breakaway move involving Ian Maguire and Fionn Herlihy, brought Cork two ahead. There followed another poor Down Wide, that last off-target effort punished in the ensuing pass by a point from Mattie Taylor.

A white flag from Ryan McEvoy as the clock ticked down added left on the scoreboard showing 1-14 to 1-12. However, Down would come no closer. Ceilum Doherty’s stoppage-time point attempt came back from the post and ended in a Colm O’Callaghan score at the other end.

Fittingly, it was Steven Sherlock who completed Cork’s scoring, his 73rd-minute point taking his personal tally to 1-7. He and fellow corner forward Cathail O’Mahony smeared their fingerprints all over the potentially season-defining result, the latter contributing on three occasions.

O’Mahony’s opening pair came in a most unremarkable first half that ended with Cork 1-5 0-5 ahead.

The teams were tied on four occasions in the first period, with neither side leading by more than a point before Sherlock’s 28th-minute slapped goal that sent Cork 1-5 down 0-4 without mistake.

There were more injury concerns for Cork early in the game as Kieran Histon left after just five minutes with an ankle problem. Tommy Walsh, the Kanturk youngster, who is still U20, has been called up to the bench, becoming the 15th Cork player to make his league debut this season.

Walsh walked into a Cork defense that struggled to tie down Pat Havern, with the all-around striker proving a real nuisance. The three-point provider was involved in the build-up to Rushe’s 47th-minute goal that cut Cork’s lead to one, 1-9 to 1-8. And while they would cut the deficit to a minimum again later in the final quarter, no equalizing score could be found by Down.

Cork, in front of an incredibly small home crowd, bought himself a lifeline. Now what can they do with it.

Scorers for Cork: S Sherlock (1-7, 0-5 free); C O’Mahony (0-3); C O’Callaghan (0-2); J O’Rourke, D Dineen, M Cronin, M Taylor (0-1 each).

Scorers for Down: A Gilmore (0-3, 0-3 free), P Havern (0-3 each); T-Rushe (1-0); D O’Hagan (0-2 each); C Doherty, C Quinn, R O’Higgins, R McEvoy (0-1 each).

CORK: M Martin; K O’Donovan, K Flahive, K Histon; J Cooper, R Maguire, M Taylor; I Maguire, C O’Callaghan; D Dineen, E McSweeney, J O’Rourke; S Sherlock, B Hurley, C O’Mahony.

Subtitles: T Walsh for Histon (five minutes, inj); B Murphy for Sherlock (38-HT, temporary); F Herlihy for Dineen (53); M Cronin for Hurley (59); C Kiely for McSweeney (65); J Grimes for O’Rourke (70).

DOWN: R Burns; P Fegan, F McElroy, G Collins; D O’Hagan, C Poland, C Doherty; A Doherty, N McParland; A Morgan, L Kerr, R McEvoy; A Gilmore, P Havern, C Quinn.

Subtitles: K McKernan for McParland (23 min, inj); T Rushe for Quinn (35); G McMahon for Burns (39); R O’Higgins for Morgan (58).

Arbitrator: B Griffin (Kerry).

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