Cork football talking points: Backpass rule helped Rebels dodge relegation

Mark Woods reflects on the one-point win over Offaly that staved off the drop to Division 3
Cork football talking points: Backpass rule helped Rebels dodge relegation

Offaly players dejected at the end of the loss to Cork. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

Cork’s character 

For a team that has been through so much in such a troubled season, the manner in which Cork played out the closing minutes showed their character in abundance.

Offaly tested them to the near limits by simply refusing to go away, despite trailing by six points at one stage during the second half, when Cork had the breeze at their backs.

And the quality of the home side’s finishing, epitomised by the McNamees, Niall and Ruairi, and Bill Carroll, would have knocked a lot of the heart out of most team’s challenges, but Cork showed they’re made of sterner stuff.

Just as impressive was their own shooting, Steven Sherlock, from both frees and open play, skipper Brian Hurley, John O’Rourke and Cathail O’Mahony in the first half.

And most importantly of all, Cork displayed ice-cool heads in those hectic closing minutes, remaining calm and composed and using the ball wisely.

Hurley and substitute Cian Kiely, twice, got Cork back on level terms before Sherlock, almost nonchalantly, knocking over a free to guarantee survival.

New backpass rule 

Don’t ask to quote chapter and verse on this one, but referee Niall Cullen from Fermanagh had to make two different calls against Offaly netminder Paddy Dunican, one in either half.

In the first, he brought play all the way back from the Cork defence to throw in the ball just outside the Offaly 20m line, to the obvious bemusement of nearly everyone.

Then, a minute from the end of five minutes’ injury-time, the official awarded Cork a free because the offence happened inside the 20m line with Sherlock duly capitalising.

In fairness to Cullen, he kept cool and composed in the heat of a fierce battle, with the vociferous Offaly baying from the stands, and quietly and deliberately went about his business.

Championship scene 

Preserving their second-tier status means Cork will be able to compete for the Sam Maguire Cup, regardless of the outcome of their Munster semi-final date with Kerry in early May.

If Cork had lost, they would have needed to dethrone Kerry as provincial champions to guarantee their involvement or take the new route in the Tailteann Cup for teams in Divisions 3 and 4.

It means Cork are guaranteed at least two championship matches now, because if they lose to Kerry, they would then enter the qualifiers and who knows how their season would pan out in such circumstances.

Offaly, on the other hand, now have to reach a Leinster final to avoid the Tailteann Cup, a prospect which seems to be well beyond them, but you’d never know.

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