Cork now head to Ennis knowing a win will secure a shot at promotion

Footballers looked the part against Laois but still need to get a result away to Clare
Cork now head to Ennis knowing a win will secure a shot at promotion

Ian Maguire of Cork celebrates after kicking a point against Laois. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

LEADING from the opening exchanges, in Portlaoise on Saturday night the Cork footballers were vastly improved from the opening round of the league.

And they needed to be. Last week was a disappointing one for the Rebels, to put it mildly, and they wouldn't have to be told that it was simply not good enough.

Have no doubt that Cork manager, Ronan McCarthy, and his management team spent some time trying to figure out where it all went wrong against Kildare.

Afterwards McCarthy was very honest in his assessment of their performance: “Overall, we couldn’t have any complaint about the result based on the second-half though we worked hard to try and get back into it.

“At the same time we never really looked like scoring a goal either, so we will emphasise the positives going into the next game, but we don’t shy away from the negative either.”

This time, two goals gave them the platform for a vital victory on the road, and they were in the driving seat for long spells, setting them up nicely for Clare in Ennis next weekend. 

After the poor showing against Kildare, we saw a number of changes for this one with a few others lucky to have kept their starting spots.

When Cork took to the pitch it was no great surprise to see Sean Powter at centre-back, despite being named in the number two position, Kevin O'Donovan slotted in at corner-back with Seán Meehan starting on the wing. He then went to full-back with Daniel O'Mahony coming out to the half-back line.

Looking at the home side's showing against Clare last week Cork would have been expecting to travel home with a good win under their belts.

And that's exactly what we got from the Rebels, a display that was full of intensity, running and some sublime scores and they were fully deserving of their win.

Cork's Kevin O’Driscoll and Evan O'Carroll of Laois. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Cork's Kevin O’Driscoll and Evan O'Carroll of Laois. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

From the start they were hounding Laois, giving them no time on the ball and forced a few early turnovers to see defence rapidly turn into attack. They burst forward at pace with Maguire and Powter leading the way and Laois were finding it difficult to handle them. It was no great surprise they took the lead after just two minutes when Luke Connolly played an inch-perfect pass to Seán White to find the back of the net.

Ciaran Sheehan used all the skills he would have learned in Australia to catch what looked like an impossible ball for a mark and he duly converted the free to put Cork 1-1 to the good. His inclusion at the edge of the square brought some welcome physicality to that line.

It all looked good early on but then Cork started to make a few unnecessary errors and were guilty of some sloppy passages of play to leave Laois back into contention.

But, again led by O'Mahony, Maguire and Powter, Cork regained control and were fully deserving of their six-point half-time lead. It is also worth noting that Cork didn't have a single wide in the first half, ensuring there was no wayward shooting in front of goal.

Six points to the good at the break turned into eight points by full-time and a quick look at the second-half you would say Cork won 5-3.

Overall McCarthy will have travelled home happy but there is still plenty of work to do ahead of the championship in a few weeks time. Add in a tough trip to Clare next Sunday and Cork are far from guaranteed two league wins ahead of that.

What was pleasing from Cork was their intensity right to the end, with the seven subs who came on ensuring that didn't drop right to the final whistle.

But at that, the second half was a bit sloppy and the Rebels gave the ball away too easily at times. They carried possession into players and were turned over and a better side would have punished them, certainly not the type of mistakes they can afford to make come championship.

This will give them plenty to ponder and work on ahead of next weekend and no doubt McCarthy will freshen up the side again for that trip to Ennis.

BOOST

Seeing the likes of Mark Collins and Luke Connolly back on the pitch can only bolster Cork and both will need more game time next week to sharpen up, but they both showed touches of their importance to Cork. Connolly lasted 50 minutes before being called ashore with Collins entering the fray after 52 minutes and scoring two points from frees.

Worth noting they only kicked two wides in the second-half and made the most of the scoring chances they created, but there were times when they were well inside the Laois half and found themselves playing the ball back to their own full-back line. You have to recycle at times but there were better options on than going that far back.

Overall job done, but still, plenty to work on ahead of their next outing and with two points in the bag that's a position McCarthy will be happy with. Cork can travel confident for the clash with Clare but also will be conscious of their sloppy play at times, something they will need to sort in the coming weeks.

But they can travel home happy with the points and their display and move on from there.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more