THE final whistle brought welcome relief to all, apart from Louth, obviously, as Cork made extremely hard work of back-to-back wins in Division 2 at Páirc Uí Rinn.
The weather captured the mood. At the start, day turned nearly to night as the famous old ground was hit by a massive sleet shower, before staying dry again for a while.
But, there was no escape the biting cold all-through in near-Arctic conditions and another storm during the break kept the players, quite wisely, in their dressing rooms until it passed.
At that juncture, Cork, who had played with the wind from the throw-in, established a commanding 1-9 to 0-4 advantage and appeared to be on course for a routine victory.
Yet, we should have remembered Louth opening up the Cork defence on three occasions in the half as Ryan Burns, Bevan Duffy, and Ciaran Downey warmed the hands of keeper Ryan Price, who diverted the efforts away from the danger zone.
Still, Cork remained patient and in control of the ball as Louth parked the bus in front of their own posts, recalling right corner-forward Derek Maguire to act as sweeper.
Michael Hurley showed up promisingly at centre-forward, bringing runners into the game with neat passes and Cork used the flanks well at times, too.
New wing-back Cian Kiely made himself available with finely timed runs into space and kicked a fine point to make it 0-5 to 0-2 after 16 minutes.
That triggered Cork’s most productive spell as Sean White stretched the lead with an impressive point from distance before pouncing for the opening goal in the 22nd minute.
The move was typical of Cork’s approach play, slow, methodical, and regularly switching the point of attack, as Mark Collins played in White, who slotted home with a cool, low shot past keeper Craig Lynch.
There was little to suggest from the visitors, who are one of the bankers to be relegated at the end of the campaign, that they carried enough nous or scoring power to trouble Cork.
When Colm O’Neill opened the second-half scoring with a 43rd minute free, Cork’s lead stretched to nine points and all seemed well.
Then, it all began to unravel. First, Kevin O’Driscoll, who had been booked in the first-half along with Maguire, picked up a second yellow and red card for a high tackle in the 48th minute.
A couple of quick-fire points from a Burns free and another from play from captain Andy McDonnell offered Louth a ray of hope they built on.
Even Ruairi Deane’s 52nd minute point couldn’t muster Cork from their slumber, a 1-11 to 0-6 advantage still appearing to have the home side in control, but not for long.
Substitutes William Woods and Gerard McSorley greatly increased Louth’s options in attack and with Cork struggling to get the ball beyond halfway, it put the defence under sustained pressure.
McSorley’s effort for a point struck the crossbar with the Cork rearguard all at sea and then corner-back Sam Ryan bravely dived on Woods’s attempt at goal.
Louth were now dictating. Three Woods frees made it a five-point game before Cork were reduced to 13 men after a straight red card for substitute Peter Kelleher after 67 minutes.
McSorley added Louth’s 10th in the first of five additional minutes before Kiely made the game safe with a well-taken goal, 30 seconds from the end.
Scorers for Cork: S White, C Kiely 1-1, C O’Neill 0-4 (0-3 f), M Collins 0-3 (0-2 f), M Hurley, R Deane 0-1
Scorers for Louth: R Burns 0-4 (0-3 f, 0-1 45), W Woods 0-3 f, B Duffy, A McDonnell and G McSorley 0-1.
CORK: R Price (O’Donovan Rossa); S Ryan (St Finbarr’s), J O’Sullivan (Bishopstown), S Wilson (Douglas); T Clancy (Fermoy), C Dorman (Bishopstown), C Kiely (Ballincollig); I Maguire (St Finbarr’s), captain, R Deane (Bantry Blues); S White (Clonakilty), J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers), K O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaighs); M Hurley (Castlehaven), C O’Neill (Ballyclough), M Collins (Castlehaven).
Subs: M Taylor (Mallow) for Sherlock, half-time, D O’Callaghan (Clyda Rovers) for White 51, P Kelleher (Kilmichael) for Hurley 58, D Quinn (St Finbarr’s) for Dorman, 59, C Dorgan (Ballincollig) for Maguire, 65, P Clancy (Fermoy) for Wilson, 69.
LOUTH: C Lynch; J Bingham, E Carolan, F Donohue; D Marks, J Stewart, A Williams; C Earley, B Duffy; C Downey, J McEneaney, A McDonnell, captain; D Maguire, C Grimes, R Burns.
Subs: E Lafferty for Marks and T Durnin for McEnaney, half-time, J Craven for Bingham, W Woods for Burns and G McSorley For Earley, all 52, T McEneaney for Grimes 57.
Referee: M McNally (Monaghan).