Cork keep their nerve to ensure survival after epic relegation decider in Offaly

Cork kicked three of the last four scores to win by the minimum margin and condemn the midlanders to division 3
Cork keep their nerve to ensure survival after epic relegation decider in Offaly

Cork's Fionn Herlihy celebrates at the final whistle during the Allianz Football League Division 2 match between Offaly and Cork in Tullamore. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Cork 1-21 Offaly 1-20 

CORK survived relegation to Division 3 by the skin of their teeth in a magnificent game played in ideal conditions at O’Moore Park, Tullamore, on Sunday.

When the need was greatest, Cork stepped up to the plate, edging an incredibly tense encounter by claiming three of the last four scores, having trailed by a point approaching five minutes’ injury-time.

Then, captain Brian Hurley forced parity for only the third time with a super score off his left and still defiant Offaly roared back, Ruairi McNamee edging them in front again in the 72nd minute.

Cork kept their composure under the most intense pressure as substitute Cian Kiely flung over another equaliser, 1-20 apiece, with a minute of normal time remaining.

From the kick-out home keeper Paddy Dunican infringed the rule regarding the ball being played back to the custodian and Sherlock slotted over to give Cork some breathing room.

Ian Maguire was black-carded in the next play, but Offaly’s last chance of a goal to keep them safe came to nought and the final whistle brought joy and relief in equal measures to Cork.

Cork began smartly and were immediately into their stride, Colm O’Callaghan fisting over the opening point after 12 seconds.

And they received a major boost with a brilliant Cathail O’Mahony goal before the third minute had elapsed.

He cut in from the right, rounded a defender, before planting a well-struck left-footed shot int the bottom corner of the net.

Cork made significant inroads on the Offaly defence, notably through the centre, and they jumped 1-4 to 0-1 in front after 11 minutes, courtesy of scores from John O’Rourke, O’Callghan, again with the fist, and a Brian Hurley ‘mark’.

Eventually, Offaly settled and they matched Cork score for score with equally impressive finishing as Stephen Sherlock finally got on the scoreboard after 26 minutes, finding the range from distance with a superb effort.

Cork looked well in control-Hurley brilliantly picking out Sherlock, who punched over to leave the visitors comfortable at 1-9 t 0-6, three minutes before the interval.

Ian Maguire of Cork in action against Ruairi McNamee of Offaly. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Ian Maguire of Cork in action against Ruairi McNamee of Offaly. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

But, disaster struck from the kick-out as long diagonal ball from the right ended with a foul on full-forward Niall McNamee, who kicked a couple of beauties earlier, and referee Niall Cullen quickly awarded a penalty.

Worse still, Cork lost full-back Kevin Flahive to a blatant black card and Anton O’Sullivan confidently buried the penalty, hard to the right of keeper Micheal Aodh Martin, who had no chance of saving.

Moment later Bill Carroll swung over a fine point and while Sherlock completed the scoring in the closing act, Cork’ lead had been cut in half at the break, 1-10 to 1-7.

They moved six in front again early in the second half, but spirited Offaly never gave up, outscoring Cork 0-7 to 0-2 to set-up a nerve tingling closing quarter.

Scorers for Cork: S Sherlock 0-9 (0-4 f), C O’Mahony 1-1, B Hurley 0-3 (0-1 m), J O’Rourke 0-3, C O’Callaghan 0-2, M Taylor, B Murphy, C Kiely 0-1 each.

Offaly: N McNamee 0-7 (0-2 f, 0-2 m), A Sullivan 1-3 (1-0 pen), B Carroll 0-3, R McNamee 0-2, N Darby, K O’Neill, C Flynn, J Moloney 0-1 each, P Dunican 0-1 f.

CORK: MA Martin (Nemo Rangers); K O’Donovan (do), K Flahive (Douglas), T Walsh (Kanturk); J Cooper (Éire Óg), R Maguire (Castlehaven), M Taylor (Mallow); I Maguire (St Finbarr’s), C O’Callaghan (Éire Óg); D Dineen (Cill na Martra), E McSweeney (Knocknagree), J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers); S Sherlock (St Finbarr’s), B Hurley (Castlehaven, c), C O’Mahony (Mitchelstown).

Subs: B Murphy (St Vincent’s) for McSweeney 47, M Cronin (Nemo Rangers) for O’Mahony 51, C Kiely (Ballincollig) for Flahive 52, B Hartnett (Douglas) for Dineen 59, F Herlihy (Dohenys) for O’Rourke 69.

OFFALY: P Dunican; K Dolan, J Lalor, N Darby; L Pearson, D Hogan, C Doyle; C Donoghue, J Hayes; D Hyland, R McNamee, B Carroll; J Moloney (c), N McNamee, A Sullivan.

Subs: C Flynn for Pearson injured 23, M Abbott for Hyland 51, K O’Neill for O’Donoghue 52, C Donnelly for Doyle 55, B Allen for Sullivan 68.

Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh).

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