Cork stall Louth resurgence to secure winning start to All-Ireland campaign

Cork outscored Louth by 0-6 to 0-3 in the final 10 minutes of the clash in Navan to see out the win

All-Ireland SFC Round 1: Louth 1-17 Cork 1-19

As Louth rallied in the second-half of a riveting All-Ireland SFC encounter in Navan, the thought struck that we’d been here before. With both teams.

Trailing by six points after 45 minutes, ahead by one approaching the hour mark, the mind was immediately drawn to Louth’s comeback win over Westmeath at the same venue last month in the Leinster SFC.

Louth came from eight points behind that day to win and, perhaps more pertinently, had turned over a five-point deficit to beat Cork in the National League in March.

Cork, meanwhile, had been unable to turn a four-point lead into a win over Clare in the Munster SFC, spelling their exit from that competition and leaving them with a seven-week wait for this Group 1, Round 1 encounter to roll around.


In the circumstances, nobody would have been surprised if Louth had pushed on for another win, but this time they couldn’t pull it off as Cork finally dug deep enough to mine out a precious win.

Even if they lose to Kerry next weekend, and Mayo in Round 3, the expectation will be that they will still advance to an All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final ahead of Louth.

A key difference between this and the Clare game was that Cork had Brian Hurley back fully fit and firing. The team captain’s eight points, and general ultra-intensity, got the Rebels over the line and helped to secure what is a first win in the championship under John Cleary.

Trailing with 10 or so minutes of normal time left, Cork outscored Louth by 0-6 to 0-3 and Hurley, returning after a shoulder injury, contributed two of those points.

Substitutes Steven Sherlock, John O’Rourke and Conor Corbett weighed in with huge points in those closing minutes too.

“I wouldn’t be happy with an awful lot of our performance but everything was about getting over the line,” said Cork boss Cleary. “It’s absolutely huge for us that we could do that. We didn’t want to be going into the Kerry match next weekend coming off a defeat and thankfully that won’t be the case.

“It was in our mind that Louth are a team that never give up. We experienced that before and we said it to our lads at half-time. We thought we had weathered it when we went six points up but the next thing we gave them a goal and they had the momentum and drove on and it was a battle from there.”

Both Cleary and Louth manager Mickey Harte went through turmoil on the sideline. The Louth goal, scored by substitute Liam Jackson in the 46th minute, came from a short kick-out which was meant for full-back Daniel O’Mahony but which was intercepted. Harte was smiling at that one, but had his head in his hands twice late on as Louth coughed up possession with two terrible passes that ended in Cork scores for Brian O’Driscoll and Hurley.

Earlier, O’Driscoll had been the difference in a more sedate first-half with an 18th minute goal that left Cork 1-8 to 0-7 clear at the interval. Again, the goal came from a mistake of sorts as Hurley forced Louth to concede a free for overcarrying, the ball eventually worked from the right wing all the way into O’Driscoll who slammed home from close range.

Louth, showing five changes from the team that was, in Harte’s own words, “battered” by Dublin in the Leinster final, looked to captain Sam Mulroy for inspiration again.

He went through a handful of different markers and chewed them all up, scoring eight points, but defeat was his lot again.

All is not lost for Louth. They still have two games to go and will probably leapfrog Cork with a win over Mayo next weekend in Castlebar, or Kerry in Round 3.

CORK: MA Martin; M Shanley, S Meehan, T Walsh; L Fahy, D O’Mahony, M Taylor; C O’Callaghan (0-2), I Maguire (0-2); K O’Hanlon (0-1), R Deane, B O’Driscoll (1-1); S Powter (0-1), B Hurley (0-8, 6f), C Og Jones (0-1). Subs: K O’Donovan for Meehan 21 mins, S Sherlock (0-1) for Powter 48 mins, C Kiely for Walsh 49 mins, E McSweeney for O’Hanlon 55 mins, C Corbett (0-1) for Jones 64 mins, John O’Rourke (0-1) for Hurley 73 mins.

LOUTH: J Califf; D Campbell, P Lynch (0-1), D McKenny; A Williams, N Sharkey, L Grey (0-1); T Durnin (0-1), C Early (0-1); C McKeever, C Downey (0-2), B Duffy; P Mathews, S Mulroy (0-8, 4f), C Lennon (0-1). Subs: D McConnon for Mathews half-time, D McKeown (0-1) for Duffy half-time, L Jackson (1-0) for Campbell 39 mins, C Grimes (0-1) for Lennon 43 mins, C McCaul for McConnon 65 mins.

Referee: M McNally (Monaghan).