Cork football rewatch: Beating Dublin in 2010 remains a highlight for supporters

Cork football rewatch: Beating Dublin in 2010 remains a highlight for supporters
Donncha O'Connor turns to celebrate after scoring his side's goal from a penalty past Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton. O'Connor was immense in the pressure plays of that clash. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

LET’S set the scene on this a little.

Cork’s shot at getting back to an All-Ireland final wasn’t without its difficulties and it’s fair to say there were mixed thoughts at the time (and still even) on the 2010 campaign. Cork had again spent two games looking superior to Kerry without winning.

They’d taken quite a while to eventually dominate Roscommon. And in the 2010 All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin, well, we’re not picking it for the quality of performance. Cork were far better in plenty games of that 2009-2012 period – but this remains many people’s favourite experience with this Cork side. In a quick check a few weeks back, everyone I asked had it in their top five, more than the final even.

Daniel Goulding with a point attempt that dropped into the net was disallowed. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Daniel Goulding with a point attempt that dropped into the net was disallowed. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Dublin were in control for long long spells of the game, Cork’s running game was more or less halted and it was one of those occasions where they looked a little one-dimensional. And yet, as a pure gut check, Cork did everything they needed to do, hanging in there and then making the game theirs with a championship push that overwhelmed the Dubs.

It was the sort of game-winning that took this team onto that All-Ireland winning level (and make no mistake, lose here and it’s hard to see this group coming back in that form again), that 10 minutes where they refused to lose and mentally and physically destroyed Dublin.

The game went against Cork from the off. Dublin scored a goal within two minutes, Bernard Brogan sneaking in behind Ray Carey and after that, for more or less 45 minutes, there was little sense that Cork could find any control in the game at all.

They weren’t even really winning the collisions physically, or at least Dublin had altered the rules of engagement slightly – crowding the middle and cutting off running channels - so that Cork’s ability to run powerfully and open holes down the middle was dimmed. Time and again Cork got turned backwards in possession, lost ball, got caught on the counter.

Some notes on early rebellion.

Aidan Walsh managed to kick two bad wides and lose possession for a Dublin score in the opening quarter and still had the gumption to take on a far-from-gimme shot before the 20th minute and took off down the centre to get fouled for a free shortly afterwards; Walsh was a rolls-royce of a footballer in full flow.

Paul Kerrigan showed his devastating pace to leave Philly McMahon for dead a couple of times, kicked a score, pinged an outside-of-foot shot off the post from way out that was either almost one of the great or luckiest Croke Park goals.

Cork's Paul Kerrigan and Philip McMahon Dublin in action in 2010. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne 
Cork's Paul Kerrigan and Philip McMahon Dublin in action in 2010. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne 

Alan O’Connor ran down the middle to create a goal chance for Pearse O’Neill, one of the very few Cork-type situations allowed in that first hour. 

And still, Dublin looked far likelier and it’s a little shocking to see Cork’s defence get completely caught in a two-v-two situation in their full-back line against Brogan-Eoghan O’Gara with not only no sweeper, but absolutely zero sign of covering half-backs/midfielders getting back to help.

Dublin looked dangerous almost every time they attacked and Cork struggled with Brogan especially. Cork kicked nine wides before half-time and had no fluency.

Basically, it’s just that last 15 minutes or so that was a great watch, and it’s just as good now as it was then. Cork got in back to a point after another Kerrigan run was halted. Generally when we look back on Cork games, we figure Kerrigan was underrated through his time as he came up with a lot of big plays.

Cork’s goal wasn’t exactly coming but it was a strategy that they used every now and then - Nick Murphy went into full-forward, was noticed in there cleverly by Paudie Kissane and Colm O’Neill gobbled the break to get fouled. Now, that penalty.

Donncha stepped up, sent Cluxton the wrong way (he says he’d have decided the night before the game where to put it generally) and Cork were back in it. And then, again we forgot, Dublin scored twice to bring it back to three points again before something shifted properly.

Cork were coming in waves at Dublin in that last spell and when Cork stepped up the intensity and power. They’d do this in games that year, little spells against Roscommon, Dublin and then Down where they upped into another zone and everyone realised they had more.

Dublin had nothing left to give.

Pa Kelly bursts up field.
Pa Kelly bursts up field.

Colm O’Neill got a lovely point, that kick on the half-turn he excelled at, slightly clipping the ball low across himself that made it so hard to block. Daniel Goulding got fouled and then with some crazy notion at that stage of the game gave up an easy free to try and nick a goal from a quick slipped free to Paddy Kelly. I’d say Goulding was lucky a point came from that move.

Then those three Donncha frees in a row, three kicks of varying difficulty but of such importance and timing that they’ll stand up there with Tompkins’ 1987 Munster final placed kick in Cork football history.

A few things on these. It’s noticeable when watching the three how locked-in that Donncha’s technique is, how similar they all are in the strike and follow-through and even the flight of the ball.

That wasn’t an accident. He spent an age with Ned English making sure the technique was consistent no matter the distance or angle.

Donncha celebrates a late free.
Donncha celebrates a late free.

Also, not a flicker of over-excitement or nerves despite the score and importance in the era. Again, not an accident. O’Connor had spent just as long at training and with Kevin Clancy making sure his focus held on each kick so that the routine took him out of the game so completely he reckoned he wasn’t even aware of the score when taking those frees.

They all went over as Cork ran riot, Derek Kavanagh followed up with another point from play, piling forward into the spaces left as Dublin ran out of legs and spirit, which is exactly what this Cork always had in their lockers. When those vital possession were there to be won at midfield, Cork took over.

When the game was there, it was this Cork team that stepped up, kept playing, kept demanding ball and running hard and in the end they got the rewards. If there was a tendency afterwards to suggest Dublin left it after them with naivety and indiscipline, you can more easily make the argument that Cork won it with composure and discipline. That in their moment they had that winning quality in them.

Eoin Cadogan after the victory.
Eoin Cadogan after the victory.

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