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Rebels Rising?

Cork vs. Mayo: Pairc Uí Rínn,
31st January 2016,
Attendance: 4,649

Under the grey January Skies, the 2016 Allianz National Leagues kicked off this weekend with Cork hosting Mayo at Pairc Uí Rínn. Following on from 2015, both teams came into it under much different circumstances. With the hurt of 2013, 2014, and 2015 still very running through the Mayo dressing rooms with much coveted Sam Maguire a shadow on the mantel piece yet again, and Cork hoping to bounce back from a disastrous year which saw the county both league finals and not make it to headquarters for the first time since 2002. After several managerial changes in the off season, with Peadar Ó hEaluighte stepping in to lead the Rebels, the stage was set for the first of a long journey to Croke Park.

Fittingly, away from the competition, both teams and fans gathered for a moment to John Corcoran, to savour the silence and reflect on a man who gave his life for the game.

From the first whistle, both sides were eager for the challenge. Ignoring the bitter cold and sodden pitch, it was Cork who drew first blood through a Brian Hurley free. Mayo responded well to the early score, with the side not panicking and regaining composure through clever link up between Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty, however the shot was just wide. From here, an end to end game unfolded, with both sides charging down the midfield; from Eoin Cadogan who used his strengths to burst through the Mayo midfield, and soon the hosts doubled their advantage through a Daniel Goulding free. It wasn’t long until Mayo found themselves on the score sheet thanks to Jason Doherty.  It was Doherty next who almost lifted the stadium, when a swift break of the wall left Doherty one vs. one with Ken O Halloran, but it was the Bishopstown man who pulled out a fine block to deny the visitors.

The thirst yet again exploded for the men from Connaught, with Brian O Driscoil and Tom Clancy fouling Diarmuid O Conner, gifting Mayo a free. Against the breeze, O Conner’s effort was just short, and in the few seconds of helter skelter reforming of the battle lines, Cork broke down the wings, with midfielder Mark Collins having an effort just wide. Over the remaining 20, it was Cork who proved the dominant side, with scores from UCC Student Luke Connolly, Brian Hurley and also Paul Kerrigan from good patient play. Against the run of play, it was Mayo who finished the strongest with Evan Reagan forcing a fine save from O Halloran, but whatever scraps where left over where cut short but the half time whistle, Cork leading 0-12 0-4 lead at the break.

From the opening moments of the first half, Cork regained the same intensity with Ian Maguire winning the ball from the break and adding to the host’s advantage. It was here, Cork really began to sink their teeth into the tie, not settling for even the most meagre of advantages. The rebels pressed on from every break of the ball, and each stretching the Mayo defence. Brian Hurley added to his tally next from a free, followed by Jamie O Sullivan swinging in an inviting cross for it to be cleared by Mayo’s Ger Cafferkey. Mayo however pressed back, pressing again, with Jason Doherty hitting the woodwork moments later. From this early warning sign, Cork switched into first gear. Paul Kerrigan; famous for his bust of speed, charged down the wings and grabbed yet another point. Moments later, following a foul on Daniel Goulding, Cork where handed a penalty. Like the heroics in the 2015, Mayo’s Robert Hennelly showed his worth yet again with a fine save to deny the rebels once again. Huddled over their plastic cups, the Mayo fans erupted; urging the team on to try and salvage something from this. To the symphony of the crowds groans and moans, Cork reigned with Peter Kelleher fouled gifting Cork a free at the 22. Like his days in Chríost Rí and on the fields of the Mardyke, Luke Connolly stepped up and converted the chance, the Rebels now in firm control.

The final third unfolded slowly, Mayo a beaten side, and Cork in firm control over the Connaught men. While Mayo tried to claw their way back through, it was there frustrations which came through over the ball, with Lee Keegan forcing Eoin Cadogan to ground with a powerful shoulder. While Mayo pressed back, Cork equally tried to increase their score line. It was Evan Reagan who would score next, with Mayo now left clutching at straws to make up the 0-6 0-17 defect. Miracles didn’t seem to be on the cards though, with Cork remaining firm in attack in defence.  While at one end, good link up between Aidan O Shea and Mickey Sweeney gave Mayo a lifeline, their faith was all the more sealed with Luke Connolly bursting through, and following a foul on Mark Collins, Cork where handed another penalty; an opportunity Brian Hurley made sure to take.

For the closing moments, it was a rather different affair for both sides. On one side, it was mission accomplished with Cork; with old favourites of Paul Kerrigan and Brian Hurley laying down a marker with the new manager, and young stars such as Ian Maguire and Luke Connolly asserting their place to the manager with dominant performances, the Mayo dressing room where very much left scratching their head. While trips to Leeside have always been a one of bother to the giants of the game; with Cork scalping the Dubs and Kerry in 2015, a loss of 9 points, and seven wides leaves much to be desired.

It finished 1-18 to 12 points in the end, with both sides leaving with very much different mind-sets. Up next now is a trip to Donegal for the Leesiders, and a daunting task of the Dublin at home for Mayo. It was certainly a mixed afternoon for both dressing rooms. Have Cork found a winning formation? Have Mayo learned from the lessons of 13,14,15? It maybe early days yet, but there are certainly many questions lingering in both dressing rooms.

Cork: K O’Halloran; K Histon, E Cadogan, J O’Sullivan; C O’Driscoll, B O’Driscoll, T Clancy; I Maguire, A O’Sullivan; P Kerrigan, L Connolly, M Collins; D Goulding, P Kelleher, B Hurley.

Subs: B Daly for Cadogan (51 mins, inj), D Óg Hodnett for Kerrigan (56), R Deane for Maguire (58), S Hickey for Connolly, D MacEoin for Kelleher (both 63), M Collins for Histon (66).

Mayo: R Hennelly; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, L Keegan; S Nally, D Vaughan, C Boyle; T Parsons, J Gibbons; C Crowe, K McLoughlin, D O’Connor; J Doherty, C O’Shea, E Regan.

Subs: A O’Shea for McLoughlin (30 mins) M Sweeney for Crowe (44), D Drake for Vaughan (44), M Hall for Nally (48), C Carolan for O’Connor (58), P O’Hora for Keegan (61, injury)

Man of the Match: Paul Kerrigan.