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‘We are not out of it yet but two victories will hopefully set the tone,’ says Cork boss John Cleary

March 7th, 2024 4:00 PM

By Ger McCarthy

‘We are not out of it yet but two victories will hopefully set the tone,’ says Cork boss John Cleary Image
Cork manager John Cleary faces Donegal this Saturday.

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Cork 2-15

Kildare 3-9



JOB done, but more work to do, as Cork escaped the Allianz Football League Division 2 relegation zone last weekend.

Victory against Kildare at SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh made it back-to-back wins as the Rebels rose to fifth in the table and boosted their survival chances significantly.

Brian O’Driscoll starred for a Cork team in which Conor Corbett, Colm O’Callaghan and Chris Óg Jones were equally impressive. Tommy Walsh and Corbett’s goals were crucial on a day John Cleary’s defence conceded three goals to bottom-of-the-table Kildare.

Cork's Tommy Walsh evades the challenge of Kildare's Kevin Feely during the crunch Division 2 clash.
(Photos: George Hatchell)

‘I didn’t say an awful lot (at half-time), to be honest with you,’ John Cleary said, in reference to Cork’s poor first-half display as they trailed by one.

‘The lads knew it themselves and, again, we really hadn’t gotten out of the blocks. We were only a point down at half-time. The goal before half-time was a real fillip.

‘The mood was “lads, we can’t continue on like this”. In fairness, they took the game by the scruff of the neck at the start of the second half. We got on top and could have won by more, such was our dominance in the second half.’

A scrappy start was punctuated by Brian O’Driscoll’s opening score after four minutes. Kildare’s response was impressive, Daniel Flynn breaking clear to set up Alex Beirne for Kildare’s first goal in five games. Kevin Feely extended the visitors’ advantage, 1-2 to 0-1.

A pedestrian pace suited Kildare as Cork struggled to gain a foothold. Kevin Feely curled over a beauty to make it 1-3 to 0-1. Brian O’Driscoll, now a Carrigaline clubman, was one of Cork’s few positives and kicked his second point to reduce the deficit.

Rory Maguire notched Cork’s third score but, once again, Cork’s defence was found wanting as Daniel Flynn waltzed through for his side’s second goal on 22 minutes. Kevin Flahive came up from corner-back to kick Cork’s fourth point. Next, Niall Kelly and Chris Óg Jones exchanged scores before a major turning point – Cork counter-attacked at pace with Matty Taylor setting up Tommy Walsh for a badly needed injury-time goal.

Down 2-3 to 1-5 at the break, Brian O’Driscoll brought Cork level a minute after the restart. Then, Conor Corbett edged the hosts back in front before Iveleary’s Chris Óg Jones made it a two-point game. A converted Kevin Feely free was the game’s first score not from open play after 43 minutes.

Cork continued to press and an excellent Colm O’Callaghan effort made it 1-9 to 2-4. Brian Hurley became Cork’s eighth different scorer courtesy of a close-range point prior to Conor Corbett pushing Cork four clear. Hurley kept the Rebels on the front foot before Corbett got on the end of a flowing move to net a fine goal after 52 minutes.

Just when it seemed Cork were in control, the concession of a penalty saw Kevin Feely find the net to make it 2-12 to 3-5. Colm O’Callaghan had a fine game and added his second and third points to push Cork further ahead. Chris Óg Jones compounded Kildare’s woes to make it 2-15 to 3-5, and Cork weren’t caught from here.

‘We did feel we weren’t playing horribly bad (over our previous games),’ John Cleary concluded. ‘We did get a break in a Fermanagh game that looked to be going away from us. We got a goal in injury-time to get us over the line.

‘Within the camp, there wasn’t all that doom and gloom because we were going reasonably well. If we could hold the heads, hopefully it would turn. I said here a couple of weeks ago that we had backed ourselves into a corner. Now, we are trying to get out of that corner. We are not out of it yet but, at least, two victories will hopefully set the tone.’



Cork: C Corbett 1-2; T Walsh 1-0; B O’Driscoll, C Óg Jones, C O’Callaghan 0-3 each; B Hurley 0-2; R Maguire, K Flahive 0-1 each.

Kildare: K Feely 1-6 (1-0 pen, 3f); D Flynn 1-1; A Beirne 1-0; N Kelly 0-2 (1f).


Cork: C Kelly (Éire Óg); K Flahive (Douglas), D O’Mahony (Knocknagree), T Walsh (Kanturk); Luke Fahy(Ballincollig), R Maguire (Castlehaven), M Taylor (Mallow); I Maguire (St Finbarr’s), C O’Callaghan (Éire Óg); E McSweeney (Knocknagree), M Cronin (Nemo Rangers), B O’Driscoll (Carrigaline); C Óg Jones (Iveleary), C Corbett (Clyda Rovers), B Hurley (Castlehaven).

Subs: S Meehan (Kiskeam) for R Maguire (26, inj), R Deane (Bantry Blues) for E McSweeney (ht), S Powter (Douglas) for M Cronin (52), S Sherlock (St Finbarr’s) for B Hurley (58), D Buckley (Newcestown) for C Corbett (68),

Kildare: M Donnellan; R Houlihan, M O’Grady, R Burke; P McDermott, E Doyle, J Sargent; A Masterson, K O’Callaghan; L Killian, A Beirne, S Farrell; K Feely, D Flynn, N Kelly.

Subs: B Gibbons for A Masterson (42), C Bolton for L Killian (44), S Ryan for E Doyle (50), S McCormack for A Beirne (52), B Byrne for J Sargent (67),

Referee: D Gough (Meath).

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