FOR the first few minutes a possible upset was on the cards as Cork took in Dublin in the All-Ireland hurling quarter-final, but only for those two minutes.
Dublin opened the scoring just 10 seconds in and were it not for a great save from Collins could have had a goal as well. They added a second point before Cork settled into the game and from here on there only looked like one winner.
Of course, Dublin had their moments and that’s only to be expected over 70 plus minutes but in reality, they never looked like getting through.
Just before the first water break, Cork were in front and from here never trailed again.
Shane Kingston’s goal just before half-time was a killer blow for Dublin and one they never recovered from as it put the Rebels eight points up and well in the driving seat.
Once again defensively Cork impressed, with Coleman, O’Mahony and Millerick rock-solid in the half-back line.
Inside them, O’Leary, Downey and O’Donoghue were as cool as a winter’s day as they kept the Dubs out. Coleman was simply outstanding at centre-back and his reading of the game is a joy to watch.
He always seems to have time on the ball and his inch-perfect passes led to plenty of Cork scores.
Downey backed up his outstanding showing against Clare with another he can be proud of and in the end, you would hardly have known Ronan Hayes was on the pitch. For the second week in a row, his man was called ashore.
And on the one or two occasions, he was called on Collins wasn’t found wanting between the posts, with the early save a big one, as who knows what might have happened had that goal gone in.
It’s probably difficult to pick up on TV the work that Luke Meade gets through in midfield and contribution from there should not be underestimated or taken for granted.
Just one small example of his work rate could be seen in or around the 48th minute. In a rare mistake by the Cork defence he was there to pick up the ball, reading the danger. He played it across the pitch to O’Mahony and his pass gave O’Connor the simple task of tapping over.
From start to finish he does the dirty work game after game and Cork will be hoping the injury he picked up won’t keep him out of their clash next weekend with the Cats.
It didn’t look too bad as he went off and it will take a lot more than a slight knock to keep him out of the semi-final next Sunday.
Any game you hit 2-26 then you can’t have too much complaint about your forward division, who are now becoming a serious unit, with flair, pace and a killer touch for goals.
A bit like their opponents next weekend, who went to raise the green flag at every opportunity, Cork are now doing this and when the likes of O’Connor start running at you it must scare the life out of any defender.
Impressive as he is going forward O’Connor is equally so at defending. To his credit, he made it difficult for their defence as they tried to clear the ball and on more than one occasion it was his hunting down that led to a turnover and a score for the Rebels.
A win for the hurlers always brings a buzz to Cork and have no doubt the clamour for tickets for next Sunday has started already
Cork could fill Croker on their own next weekend such is the appetite for the game.
But in the cold light of day Kieran Kingston and his fellow selectors will sit down and look at this one and as always there will be parts of their performance they won’t be happy with.
The third quarter in particular will be one he will study closely as Dublin outplayed Cork and had their best period of the 70 minutes.
In that time they outscored Cork and one could argue outworked the Rebels. He will also know that Dublin are not a patch on Kilkenny and their impressive showing will need to be upped even further at Croker.
But the bottom line is we are in a semi-final and all the doubters, after the loss to Limerick, might be having a rethink.
Nothing is won yet and there is still a massive amount of work to do to reach the final.
Simply put there are 140 minutes left in the season and hopefully, the Rebels will be around for all of that time.