Cork 0-18 Meath 1-15
CORK’S infuriating inconsistency surfaced yet again as they surrendered a nine-point lead during a hectic second-half against battling Meath at wind-swept Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday.
And while their second draw of the division two campaign means Cork’s survival in such a notoriously unpredictable division is still not guaranteed, it could so easily have been a lot worse.
For 45 minutes, Cork, who had the benefit of a substantial wind in the first-half, were in total control, leading by 0-15 to 0-6 after playing their best football of the year.
Confidence flowed through the team as reflected in the manner in which centre-back Jim Loughrey surged up field, playing a couple of one-twos with substitute John O’Rourke before planting a sweet left foot strike between the uprights.
That was Cork’s 15th score, followed a couple minutes later by another from captain Paul Kerrigan to leave the home side comfortable with an eight-point cushion.
Meath, though, invented the never-say-die approach and in keeping with their renowned battling qualities stormed back into contention with a game-changing 1-6 without response from a shell-shocked Cork in a devastating quarter-hour’s action.
As Cork struggled to win possession around the middle, their plight worsened with every silly mistake like touching the ball on the ground, coughing it up when taking it into contact or mis-placed passes.
While their self-doubts intensified, the opposite effect was happening Meath, whose belief grew with every score, notably after the game’s only goal in the 56th minute, and from a corner-back of all players.
Three points in four minutes offered the visitors some hope, but Meath knew there was definitely something in for them, when substitute Eamonn Wallace set-up Donal Keogan for the crucial goal.
Suddenly, Cork’s lead was cut to just two points, 0-16 to 1-11, with plenty of time left for Meath to plunder the spoils, especially with captain Graham Reilly landing a beauty moments later.
Meath were in full flow now. A Donal Lenihan free tied up matters for only the second time after 64 minutes before another substitute, Sean Tobin, edged them in front a minute later.
Cork were now in grave danger, but they showed battling qualities of their own to restore parity with a Colm O’Neill free after a foul on Loughrey.
And substitute Barry O’Driscoll finished off good approach work from Mark Collins, Ruairi Deane and O’Rourke to put Cork one ahead entering injury-time.
In the closing minute of three added-on, Reilly’s power earned his side a close-in free, which Lenihan duly converted to end a sensational contest.
Such a climax appeared remote in the extreme after Cork, despite losing Aidan Walsh through injury and Ian Maguire to a silly black card inside 19 minutes, played some thrilling football.
The visitors had no answer to the skill and pace of Collins and O’Neill in particular, resorting to fouls, which the pair punished with a succession of pointed frees.
But, there was a lot more to admire as well, like Peter Kelleher’s ability to claim possession in the inside line and bring the runners into the action and Deane’s impressive industry.
Cork whittled off seven points without reply to lead by six after 20 minutes and their 0-12 to 0-5 interval advantage looked too much of a burden for Meath.
Nothing happened in the opening 15 minutes of the resumption to alter that view only for Meath to show once more that they’ll always fight to the end.
Scorers for Cork: C O’Neill 0-9 (0-6 f), M Collins 0-3 (0-2 f), P Kerrigan 0-2, J Loughrey, R Deane, P Kelleher, B O’Driscoll 0-1 each.
Scorers for Meath: D Lenihan 0-5 f, G Reilly 0-3, D Keogan 1-0, A Forde, B McMahon 0-2 each, C O’Sullivan, E Wallace, S Tobin 0-1 each
CORK: K O’Halloran (Bishopstown); K Crowley (Millstreet), Tom Clancy (Clonakilty), M Shields (St Finbarr’s); Tomas Clancy (Fermoy), J Loughrey (Mallow), S Cronin (Nemo Rangers); A Walsh (Kanturk), R Deane (Bantry Blues); I Maguire (St Finbarr’s), M Collins (Castlehaven), K O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaighs); C O’Neill (Ballyclough), P Kelleher (Kilmichael, P Kerrigan (Nemo Rangers), captain.
Subs: J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers) for Walsh injured 8, C O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaighs) for Maguire, black card, 19, C Dorman (Bishopstown) for Tomás Clancy 57, B O’Driscoll (Nemo Rangers) for K O’Driscoll 60, K Davis (O’Donovan Rossa) for Kerrigan 64, N Coakley (St Jude’s) for Kelleher 72.
MEATH: P O’Rourke; D Keogan, C McGil, D Tobin; W Carry, B Power, P Harnan; B Menton, J Toher; A Forde, C O’Sullivan, R O Colieain; B McMahon, G Reilly, captain, D Lenihan.
Subs: E Wallace for O Coileain 23, J McEntee for Power half-time, S Lavin for Carry 52, S Tobin for O’Sullivan 53, S McEntee for Forde 62, J Wallace for McMahon 68
Referee: F Kelly (Longford).