KIERAN McCARTHY REPORTS
TWO first-half goals helped Cork footballers kickstart their Allianz Football League Division 2 South campaign at Portlaoise on Saturday night.
One week on from a disappointing loss to Kildare, this was far better from the Rebels in a must-win game that now puts them back into the promotion battle.
They’ll travel to Ennis next weekend with a lot to play for and they’ll also take plenty of positives from this showing against a Laois side that has now lost their opening two Division 2 South fixtures.
First-half goals from Sean White and Ruairi Deane gave Cork a cushion that they defended well in a scrappier second half.
Ciarán Sheehan showed up well in attack as did John O’Rourke and Ruairi Deane, Sean Powter was a constant threat too, while full back Daniel O’Mahony was very impressive.
‘I thought a lot of our big players played really well and really stepped up in a must-win game. Ian Maguire was brilliant. I thought Ruairi was brilliant, Ciarán Sheehan was outstanding, showed real leadership, Kevin O’Driscoll put in a massive shift. Mattie was brilliant and so was Daniel O’Mahony at full back,’ Cork boss Ronan McCarthy said.
Cork got the start they needed. Less than two minutes in, Sean White finished off a sweeping move to the net after collecting, at full speed, a clever through ball from Luke Connolly.
Ciaran Sheehan stretched the Cork lead to 1-1 to 0-0 with a point from a mark. Time slowed down as Sheehan hung in the air to brilliantly pluck a hanging Luke Connolly pass from the sky. A moment of class from the Éire Óg footballer.
Laois - who lost centre back Colm Begley to an injury in the opening minute - then responded, reeling off four of the next five scores. Donal Kingston (free), Brian Byrne (2) and Daniel O’Reilly were on target for the home side with John O’Rourke’s effort, off the back of a brilliant Sean Powter surge, acting as Cork’s only reply in this period.
Cork bounced back with points from Ian Maguire and Kevin O’Driscoll to lead 1-4 to 0-4 at the first-half water break.
Laois narrowed the gap to two points in the 20th minute, but 60 seconds later Cork struck for their second goal when Ruairi Deane showed a cool head to finish low from close range after being sent through one-on-one with the Laois keeper Niall Corbett.
Efforts from Mattie Taylor and Ciarán Sheehan, the latter a superb score, sandwiched a Kieran Lillis reply for Laois. Cork were moving well and led 2-6 to 0-6. Kingston (free) and Connolly swapped scores before the break as Cork led 2-7 to 0-7.
There was more intensity to Laois in the second half, but the game was disjointed and scrappy. After goalkeeper Niall Corbet nailed a 45, the home side had a goal chance but Paul Kingston’s low effort ricocheted in the square. That sparked an instant Cork count-attack and the marauding Maguire collected a pass from Kevin O’Driscoll before finishing well. When O’Rourke added his second point, Cork led 2-9 to 0-8.
Cork shot-stopper Micheál Martin then saved well from Mark Timmons as Laois pressed for the goal they needed, but the Cork defence held well.
Laois brought it back to 2-9 0-10, but Cork finished on top with sub Mark Collins nailing two frees while another sub Shane Forde was also on target.
A good night’s work for Cork and the ideal response to their defeat to Kildare.
Cork: S White, R Deane 1-0 each; C Sheehan 0-2 (2f), J O’Rourke, I Maguire, M Collins (2f) 0-2 each; K O’Driscoll, M Taylor, L Connolly, S Forde 0-1 each.
Laois: D Kingston 0-3f; B Byrne, N Corbet (2 45s), D O’Reilly 0-2, K Lillis 0-1 each.
Cork: M Martin; S Powter, D O’Mahony, K Flahive; K O’Donovan, S Meehan, M Taylor; I Maguire, P Walsh; S White, R Deane, K O’Driscoll; J O’Rourke, C Sheehan, L Connolly.
Subs: D Gore for L Connolly (51), C O’Callaghan for C Sheehan (52), M Collins for S White (52), T Corkery for M Taylor (57), C Kiely for K O’Donovan (58), S Forde for S Powter (64), D Dineen for J O’Rourke (64).
Laois: N Corbett; R Pigott, M Timmons, G Dillon; T Collins, C Begley, P O’Sullivan; K Lillis, J O’Loughlin; E Lowry, P Kingston, D O’Reilly; B Byrne, D Kingston, E O’Carroll.
Subs: A Farrell for C Begley (2, inj), M Barry for E O’Carroll (51), G Walsh for D Kingston (52), M Keogh for E Lowry (60), E Buggie for P O’Sullivan (60), S O’Flynn for B Byrne (66), B Carroll for P Kingston (66).
Referee: B Judge (Sligo).