CORK need only one more point from their remaining two games to clinch promotion from Division 3 following yesterday’s strange 3-13 to 3-11 win over Derry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
It was their fifth triumph from as many outings to sit top of the table on 10 points, three more than their closest challengers, Longford and Down.
Cork will bounce straight back to Division 2 if they avoid defeat at home to Louth in their next game on Sunday week.
That would leave the concluding game away to Longford on the 22nd a dead-rubber from Cork’s perspective.
Cork would also be in the Division 3 final at the end of the month, Saturday March 28, at 7 pm at Croke Park.
“I’ve said 10 points should be enough to see us go up even though it didn’t for Down last year,” said coach Ronan McCarthy.
“I’m confident we will be promoted and we just need one more point to be sure. It’s a great position to be in and while it’s Division 3 it’s not easy to win all your games.
“We’ve had different challenges in all of them at different times. It’s good to be where we are and let’s see it home now, drive it on,” he added.
Cork appeared to be coasting to victory, when leading by 3-12 to 1-8 during a dominant second-half, despite playing into the teeth of a howling wind.
A first-half goal from Damien Gore which helped Cork lead by 1-5 to 0-4, was added to by a John O’Rourke brace after 45 and 60 minutes, to put the home side comfortably ahead.
But, they slackened off in the closing stages as late goals from Emmett Bradley and substitute Patrick Kearney helped Derry outscore their hosts by 2-3 to 0-1 from the 65th minute to the closing play in four minutes added on for stoppages.
Both sides finished with 14 men following late black cards for Cork midfielder Killian O’Hanlon and Derry’s Ciaran McFaul. And the first-half finished in some acrimony as tempers boiled over after Longford referee Fergal Kelly blew for half-time.
It was an untimely row because the youngsters from Mitchelstown, Bantry, Glanworth and Ballingeary were just running onto the pitch to play in their half-time mini-games.
Cork’s injury list continues to grow after Ruairi Deane was ruled out with a slight niggle in training on Thursday night.
And he was joined by Luke Connolly and Liam O’Donovan during the first-half as Cathail O’Mahony and Kevin O’Donovan deputised.
O’Donovan made his first appearance of the season as did Eoghan McSweeney, who kicked a point.