Next up for the Cork footballers: Derry, Galway or Dublin at Croke Park

Rebels head to GAA headquarters in two weeks for the All-Ireland quarter-final after a 2-18 to 1-16 qualifier victory at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but can't be paired with Kerry
Next up for the Cork footballers: Derry, Galway or Dublin at Croke Park

The Cork fans backing the footballers at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

CORK head back to Croke Park at the end of the month for their first quarter-final proper since 2014.

After a bleak league campaign, they've found form at the right time and move onto the next stage of the All-Ireland series with absolutely nothing to lose.  

The footballers haven't played in championship on Jones Road for three seasons since they took on Tyrone in the Super 8s. They also lost to Dublin at Croker in that campaign, who they could be drawn with on Monday morning. The Rebels can't be paired with Kerry and the other side of the draw, featuring Derry and Galway, would be more favourable obviously.

Armagh, Clare and Mayo are also through to the last eight, meaning all the provincial runners-up were beaten over the weekend, Donegal, Roscommon, Kildare and Limerick.

Whatever happens in two weeks John Cleary's side are firmly in bonus territory. With two games remaining in the league they were heading for Division 3 in 2023 and the Tailteann Cup this summer. 

Now, they've a bit of momentum and regained a bit of respect. Louth and Limerick, on home turf, was the most straightforward route they could have hoped for through the qualifiers but they did the business and it was great to see young fans flood onto Páirc Uí Chaoimh after to get selfies and autographs.

Brian Hurley of Cork in action against Brian Fanning of Limerick at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Brian Hurley of Cork in action against Brian Fanning of Limerick at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Credit to the Cork County Board as well, for inviting the winning Sciath na Scol schools into the Páirc, which added that bit of colour and excitement, particularly in the second half when the game opened up.

Brian Hurley and Steven Sherlock once more were the main snipers but John O'Rourke and Eoghan McSweeney chipped in with 0-5 from the half-forward line, Cathail O'Mahony finished his goal with aplomb and Kevin O'Donovan was a constant threat bombing up. The Nemo defender was fouled for the decisive penalty with five minutes of normal time remaining after Limerick had rocked Cork with 1-1 and Paul Walsh was sent off.   

Yet again, Seán Powter was immense in his dual role as sweeper and counter-attacking playmaker. Mattie Taylor was very prominent after the break, linking time and again with O'Rourke. Rory Maguire, John Cooper and Maurice Shanley are developing with each game and Ian Maguire and Colm O'Callaghan came up with some big plays in the last 15 minutes.

It was a pretty edgy opening 35 minutes.

Despite having the stiff breeze in the first half, Cork suffered from a lack of direct ball into that dangerous inside forward line. Hurley was fouled three times for tap-over frees, which highlighted how conscious the Treaty were of his threat but he was isolated too often. 

At times the running game looked like yielding goal chances, and Dan Dineen hit the crossbar when through which was whistled back for a pick-up off the ground, but there wasn't enough intensity at all in Cork's approach. 

Limerick had a host of good chances of their own and would have been disappointed to have trailed 0-7 to 0-6 when the half-time whistle sounded. The positionless style meant wing-forward Adrian Enright was repeatedly unmarked as he picked off three lovely points in that first 35 minutes.

It help didn't Cork that they weren't able to secure enough possession on long kick-outs, too often going short and building up from very deep. 

They attacked at a higher tempo in the second half, while Limerick weren't really able to maximise the wind either. The Shannonsiders only had three shots from play in the third quarter, not helped by losing Gordon Brown for 10 minutes to a black card, and Powter intercepted a few long deliveries.

Cork really took a grip of the game when Limerick were down to 14, outscoring Limerick 1-3 to 0-1, which was decisive. Still, Walsh's red card left them in a precarious position only for O'Donovan to earn the penalty that Hurley absolutely stitched. 

Roll on the trip to Croker. 

Cork's 10-year Croker championship record:

2013: Defeated Galway in a qualifier but eliminated by Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

2014: All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Mayo.

2015: Didn't make Jones Road.

2016: Reeled in by Donegal in Croke Park qualifier loss. 

2017, 2018: Didn't play in Croker.

2019: Made the Super 8s which staged the defeats to Dublin and Tyrone.

2020, 2021: Didn't get that far.

2022: Will face Derry, Galway or Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

Played 6, won 1, lost 5.

Cork’s 2022 League Scorers 

Steven Sherlock 1-36 (0-22 f, 1 45);

Brian Hurley 1-22 (0-7 f, 0-1 45, 0-1 mark);

Blake Murphy 0-7; 

John O’Rourke 1-4; 

Cathail O’Mahony 0-4; 

Kevin O’Donovan, Colm O’Callaghan 1-0; 

Joe Grimes, Daniel O’Connell 0-3 each;

Mattie Taylor 0-2; 

Mark Cronin, Fionn Herlihy, Dan Dineen, David Buckley, Seán Powter (f), Tadhg Corkery, Ian Maguire, Rory Maguire, Cian Kiely 0-1 each.

Cork’s 2022 Championship Scorers 

Steven Sherlock 0-22 (0-16 f, 0-2 45); 

Brian Hurley 2-6 (1-0 pen, 0-1 mark);

Cathail O’Mahony 1-3; 

Colm O'Callaghan 1-1;

John O'Rourke, Eoghan McSweeney 0-3 each;

Kevin O’Donovan 0-2

Damien Gore 0-1.

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