Cork 2-13 Donegal 2-7
On a record day in the early life of the black card in New York, six players took early breaks (five from Donegal) and Cork withstood a furious rally to counter the card with a closing five point salvo and the Senior Football League win for the second year in a row.
Two players went in the first half and the other four in the second, with the O’Connor brothers departing together for Donegal, leaving the side at a numerical disadvantage due to the rule that after three you cannot replace with a sub. It made a huge difference the side got within two, 2-9 to 2-7 with seven minutes left but could not sustain the pressure.
When Cork did need a calming influence it was Hugh Curran that provided it, constantly. He showed for the pass, held up play with ball in hand and popped scores all when needed.
While Donegal had the first point of the game, Cork responded with 1-2 in the next nine minutes with Cathal Hatzer getting the goal as he took a Sean O’Neill pass and scored, while Curran had the two points.
The defenses stood tall over the next quarter hour, with Steven Duffy, Dan Jackson and Donnacha O’Dwyer all prominent for Donegal while Paul O’Connor was tremendous for Cork alongside Donnagh and Denis O’Sullivan. O’Connor was winning a lot of breaks and moving the ball quickly from the defensive end, showing the undoubted fitness he has from his New York panel and Kilmurry training. The midfield sector was breaking even at this point, a fact that Cork would be happy enough with due to the towering strength that Donegal has in Quigley and O’Connor.
In the scoring down time, the first two black cards were issued with Ciaran Slattery and Peter McNeilus leaving the fray. Cork closed the half out strong with a three to one point spurt. McCarthy, Morrissey and a gem from Stafford accounted for their tallies, while James Moynagh fired a long range effort in the last minute to leave Cork ahead 1-6 to 0-2 at the break.
Alarming, of course, was the 28 minutes that Donegal could not hit the mark. But they stormed out the gate in the second stanza with Conor Lynam firing a point before Mickey Annett reacted first to a long Sean Kinahan drive and found the net.
Was this the giant awakening? Not so fast. Cork reacted swiftly and clinically.
Curran fired over a free when Hatzer was fouled before Mickey Lenehan reacted to a bouncing ball when Jer McCarthy’s point effort dropped short. The defense fluffed it and the wing forward punched to the net at the second attempt.
Further points from Curran and Lenehan extended the advantage to 2-9 to 1-3 with 15 minutes left in the game.
Cork lost their discipline when Curran received a yellow for a discrepancy and Aiden Morrissey found the black book for a foul. Donegal took it as a positive and had two points from Moynagh and a gem from Kenny O’Connor from a standing position.
Shortly thereafter it went all wrong. Adrian O’Connor got the black book for a foul, and no sooner had he reached the bench brother Kenny followed for what must have been giving his thoughts to the ref in a vociferous manner. Certainly within the rights of the ref to do so; it is one of the reasons that the rule is there.
However, Donegal now had a serious number problem. Amazingly they scored 1-2 in the aftermath of the sendings off.
The goal arrived when a short kickout by Cork went awry, with Moynagh securing possession. From distance he chipped the keeper with a floater that found its way to the net.
Now within two at 2-9 to 2-7, the next score was vital. Cork worked the kick out to the center where Jason Kelly got on the ball. His long range effort sailed inside the right post and over, the start of the end for Donegal.
A stream of points followed -- Curran, O’Neill with a beauty, McLoughlin and Hatzer all hit the mark and Cork were champions.
Cork will have bigger fish to catch and are not being built for league cups. That said, winning is contagious.
The full back line did well, with Donagh O’Sullivan developing into a very good three -- solid, dependable and intensely strong. Paul O’Connor did huge work, and his forays into attack pushed Donegal back on its feet.
Sean O’Neill had an excellent afternoon with a super point and lots of the little things. On one solo run he was hit hard by three and kept chugging before laying off to a teammate.
Up front Lenehan, Curran and Hatzer were the assassins. Curran continues to impress. Hatzer gives the side a bona fide scorer who will punish every game on a consistent basis if you fail to watch him for 60.
The Donegal defense fought hard to withstand the torrent that was coming. O’Dwyer, Clarke and Duffy all impressed at different stages. Adrian O’Connor had some superb high catches in the first half that always inspires a team.
Mickey Annett had a solid hour and his runs caused problems, but Conor Lynam never got the supply that he needed. He is a match winner when used properly.
Cork: 1 Gary Lowney, 2 Shaun McNamee, 3 Donnagh O’Sullivan, 4 Cormac Ryan, 5 Denis O’Sullivan, 6 Paul O’Connor, 7 Aiden Morrissey (0-1), 8 Sean O’Neill (0-1), 9 Rory Stafford (0-1), 10 Caolan McLoughlin (0-1), 11 Jason Kelly (0-1), 12 Mickey Lenehan (1-1), 13 Cathal Hatzer (1-2), 14 Hugh Curran (0-5), 15 Ger McCarthy (0-1). Subs: Keith Scally, John Power.
Donegal: 1 Brian Cuilinan, 2 Donnacha O’Dwyer, 3 Dan Jackson, 4 Mike Clarke, 5 Steven Duffy, 6 Kieran Slattery, 7 Colin Devlin, 8 Brendan Quigley, 9 Adrian O’Connor, 10 Mickey Annett (1-1), 11 Shane Mirron, 12 Peter McNeilus, 13 Conor Lynam (0-2), 14 James Moynagh (0-2), 15 PJ Flanagan. Sub: Kenny O’Connor (0-1), Tommy Moran (0-1), Dan Slovin.
Man of the Match: Hugh Curran (Cork).
Referee: John Fitzpatrick.