THE CORK hurlers were back in Semple Stadium on Saturday afternoon, a week after their very disappointing loss to Waterford and this time the story was much different.
It wasn’t a perfect performance in this All-Ireland qualifier from Kieran Kingston’s men but it was a huge improvement from the previous outing.
In fact, this time the positives far outweighed the negatives and the management team had reason to be very pleased with the response from the players who showed far more urgency in their approach right from the outset.
The work-rate and the intensity levels were much better too this time and the changes made to the starting 15 certainly worked the oracle. The Cork attack as a unit this time was far more fluid.
In particular, Robbie O’Flynn and Seamie Harnedy put in a splendid shift with both posting five points apiece.
O’Flynn’s pace was always a concern to the Dublin defence and Harnedy exhibited glimpses of the form that made him one of the top forwards in the country a few years ago.
Shane Kingston rifled over a fine quartet of points too while championship debutant Deccie Dalton will have been delighted with scoring the game’s only goal and adding a point for good measure.
Patrick Horgan’s offensive prowess was evident again and it was a much-changed narrative in an attacking sense.
Cork were much tighter defensively too, the return of Colm Spillane adding more steel while in the half-back sector. Mark Colemen was in absolutely sublime form all throughout the proceedings, another illustration of how he is fast becoming one of the key players on this team.
Dublin, who staged a dramatic second-half recovery that just fell short against Kilkenny in Leinster were not able to replicate that effort this time and once Cork got a firm grip on the game there was always a sense that there was only going to be one outcome.
Donal Burke secured the bulk of their scores again, nine from the dead ball while Chris Crummey and Danny Sutcliffe got a few decent points as well.
Cork led by a point after seven minutes, 0-4 to 0-3 but shortly after the game’s only goal arrived when Dalton finished well after good work by another championship newcomer Jack O’Connor.
Dublin, though, stayed in touch with Cian Boland and Ronan Hayes pointing and through Burke’s efficiency from frees. Five of the six Cork forwards scored in that opening half and at half-time, it was a six-point advantage in Cork’s favour, 1-13 to 0-10.
And they maintained their momentum on the resumption with Kingston, Harnedy, O’Flynn and Horgan splitting the posts and on the 50-minute mark they had constructed an eight-point advantage. Anthony Nash did make a vital stop from Sutcliffe.
Conor Burke got on the Dublin scoresheet as did Davy Keogh but Cork always had the look of winners about them.
Young Jack O’Connor added his name to the list of scorers before the hour mark as Cork introduced Conor Lehane, Niall O’Leary, Aidan Walsh and 19-year-old Shane Barrett, the latter in stoppage time to give him a feel for the occasion.
Earlier, Stephen McDonnell had replaced the injured Sean O’Donoghue.
Dublin notched the game’s final few points but they were of little avail as Cork comfortably entered the winner’s enclosure. In the final analysis, it was just one step on the road to redemption.
The management made the changes but most of all, the players responded when the need was greatest.