DUBLIN qualified for their 13th successive All-Ireland semi-final with a comfortable 11-point victory over Cork at Croke Park on Saturday evening when a near 25-minute spell without a score put paid to the Cork challenge.
Cork had gone in trailing by just three points at half-time, by 0-10 to 0-7, so they would have felt they had a sniff of a chance at that juncture, but when Dublin employed a full-court press on the Cork kick-out in the second half it proved to be curtains for Cork.
To go without a score between minute 30.58 to minute 55.30 was a tough watch. Cork goalkeeper Micheál Aodh Martin did not manage to kick a short kick-out in the second half until the 49th minute, and in fact, he hadn’t even attempted one until that kick was executed. This allowed Dublin to dominate possession from half time until that point and it gave them a platform to put the game to bed with ease, as they kicked six points without reply, to stretch the lead out to an unattainable nine-point gap.
This aggressive move by Dublin was a statement of intent as they looked to starve Cork of the possession that had seen them cause Dublin problems in that opening half. It worked a treat, as suddenly Cork struggled to win possession and the likes of Brian Hurley, Steven Sherlock and Cathail O’Mahony were starved of any quality ball for 20 minutes, by which time Dublin were out of sight.
Cork launched eight long kick-outs in the first half, to go with the eight short ones where Micheal Aodh Martin managed to find a teammate, and they managed to retain five of those eight long restarts. To compare this to their opponents, Dublin only had to go long once in the opening half, and they won that. While they both are technically Division 2 teams the reality are that Dublin are at a different level to Cork currently in certain aspects of the game at present.
Cork had only conceded four turnovers in the opening half, but straight from the start of the second half, you sensed they were under considerably more pressure and they had matched their turnover concession stat by the 46th minute, while they were also being forced into conceding a lot more frees, as Dublin piled on the pressure all over the pitch, with too many being within Dean Rock’s range.
Another area that the Cork team will be disappointed with is in terms of their shooting, with their 13 wides to Dublin’s seven being a case in point. Sherlock is usually unerring, but on Saturday evening he mishit an effort short in the first half, and he later struck the upright with another, while also being wayward from frees. Just like the hurlers last weekend in Thurles Cork left a lot of scores behind them from placed balls, and eventually used three different free takers, before O’Mahony banged over a couple of late long-range efforts.
The Cork management would have been happy enough with how their defensive set-up performed in the first half. Lee Gannon scored a point in the fifth minute where he was allowed carry the ball from deep unopposed from deep and kick over, and Ciaran Kilkenny kicked a similar score later in the half, but overall the defensive shape held firm.
Dublin usually thrive off of raising green flags but they never threatened the Cork goal all game. Unfortunately, Cork did not bring a goal threat either, and in truth, they probably needed at least three to muster a real challenge.
Cork had travelled up to Croke Park more in hope than in expectation. Survival in Division 2 and a run to an All-Ireland quarter-final can actually be considered a reasonably successful season considering where Cork currently are.
They have had to deal with manager Keith Ricken having to step away mid-season and they have had a huge injury list but they have most definitely shown improvement in 2022. The hope would be that this can be used as a starting point for greater things in the years ahead.