An unwelcome trend of fading in games late on struck Cork again as Down fought back to claim a deserved share of the spoils in the concluding round of fixtures in National Football League Division 2 at Pairc Ui Rinn today,
It happened in the recent home game with Meath, as well, when Cork surrendered a nine-point lead to finish with honours even.
This time there was no such squandermania though Cork did lead by four points after 50 minutes and were still 1-10 to 0-10 in front with 10 minutes’ regulation time remaining.
When captain Paul Kerrigan fired over Cork’s 10th point in the 60th minute, it looked as if Down, who needed to win to retain their status, were about to suffer a second successive relegation.
They were staring at third-tier football in 2018, but despite wasting chance after chance, accumulating 15 wides in all, Down, to their credit, never gave up the chase.
Cork, who were unable to add to their tally, came under even more intense pressure as Down fought like tigers to avoid defeat.
Even an inspirational block by Cork corner-back Kevin Crowley, who got down to divert Peter Turley’s goal-bound shot after 61 minutes didn’t deter the visitors.
A minute later, Ryan Johnston, who played an amount of ball without always delivering the final product, kicked the best point of the game to offer renewed hope.
Two minutes from the end of normal time, Jerome Johnston landed a ’45 to set-up a nail-biting climax with Cork under the cosh.
Then, half-way through four minutes’ injury-time, Jerome hit the target from a difficult free way out on the right to restore parity.
It was enough to keep Down up as their scoring difference proved decisive, sending fellow Ulster counties Derry and Fermanagh to division three next season. This despite Cork's impressive showing in the first half and fine goal from Ruairi Deane.
C O’Neill 0-6 (0-4 f), R Deane 1-1, P Kerrigan 0-2, J O’Rourke 0-1 Down: J Johnston 0-5 (0-4 f, 0-1 45), C Mooney and R Johnston 0-2 each, M Cunningham, D O’Hanlon 0-1 f each, S Millar and B O’Hagan 0-1 each
K O’Halloran (Bishopstown); M Shields (St Finbarr’s), T Clancy (Clonakilty), K Crowley (Millstreet); C O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaighs), J Loughrey (Mallow), S Cronin (Nemo Rangers); R Deane (Bantry Blues), A O’Connor (St Colum’s); K O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaighs), J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers), I Maguire (St Finbarr’s); C O’Neill (Ballyclough), P Kelleher (Kilmichael), P Kerrigan (Nemo Rangers), captain.
A Walsh (Kanturk) for O’Connor half-time, D Og Hodnett (O’Donovan Rossa) for Kelleher 45, B O’Driscoll (Nemo Rangers) for Maguire 48, J O’Sullivan (Bishopstown) for Clancy 53, J McLoughlin (Kanturk) for Shields injured 57.
M Cunningham; R McAleenan, B McArdle, D O’Hagan, captain; D O’Hanlon, C McGovern, J Flynn; C Mooney, P Turley; K McKiernan, C Maginn, R Johnston; S Millar, J Johnston, B O’Hagan.
S Dornan for O’Hagan 45, J Murphy for Flynn 50, M Poland for Maginn 63, A Davidson for Millar Referee: J Molloy (Galway).