All-Ireland SFC: Cork edge out Louth
All-Ireland senior football championship, Group 1, Round 1
CORK 1-19 LOUTH 1-17
By Paul Keane at Tailteann Park
A couple of months after being suckered by a Louth comeback in the National League, Cork made sure there was no repeat and held on for a significant All-Ireland SFC, Group 1 win.
Recent Leinster finalists Louth came from five points down to beat Cork in Division 2 in March and wiped out a six-point advantage early in the second-half this time to lead by one approaching the hour mark.
Mickey Harte's side couldn't push on for a landmark win though as Cork closed out the game strongly from there, outscoring Louth by 0-6 to 0-3 in the vital final 15 minutes or so.
Brian Hurley, just back from injury, was terrific overall for Cork and scored 0-8 including two points during that late series of scores.
Substitutes Steven Sherlock, John O'Rourke and Conor Corbett also weighed in with crucial late scores as Cork moved joint top of the group alongside Mayo.
With three teams to qualify for the knock-out stage, it could prove a vital win for Cork who will host Kerry at Pairc Ui Chaoimh next weekend. Louth, meanwhile, will attempt to score a famous win over Mayo in Castlebar next weekend.
Both sides were chasing redemption after punishing provincial defeats. Cork lost out to Clare by a point back on April 9 in Munster while Louth conceded 5-21 to Dublin in the Leinster final.
The two teams were much changed too with Louth making five alterations to the side that lined out against Dublin 13 days ago.
Defenders Dermot Campbell and Anthony Williams came into the team along with attacking trio Bevan Duffy, Paul Mathews and Craig Lennon.
Lennon opened the scoring for Louth and two more points from leading scorer Sam Mulroy and Conor Early nudged them 0-3 to 0-1 ahead.
But the two-point advantage gave a false impression of the opening quarter hour or so with Cork largely on top but unable to make it count in scoring terms.
It wasn't until Killian O'Hanlon curled over a left-footed score in the 15th minute that Cork finally started to hit the target with regularity.
Hurley chipped over a free shortly after before the Rebels put together a sumptuous move for Brian O'Driscoll's 18th minute goal.
Hurley forced a turnover on the right wing, beginning a sweeping move that ended with the influential Ruairi Deane playing in O'Driscoll to slam home from close range.
Hurley added two more points himself and finished the half with 0-4. It was a strong showing from a player who missed Cork's previous three games with a shoulder injury.
The Castlehaven man returned to the lineup along with defenders Maurice Shanley and Sean Meehan and wing-forward Killian O'Hanlon.
But there was disappointment for Meehan who trudged off with a leg injury after 21 minutes.
Meehan had man-marked Louth dangerman full-forward Mulroy, despite wearing number six, and that job then went to Kevin O'Donovan who came on to replace him.
Louth picked off points from Mulroy and Peter Lynch to keep themselves just about in it but Cork weren't flattered by their 1-8 to 0-7 half-time lead.
The challenge for Louth was to turn in a second-half performance like the one which saw them come from eight points down at the break to beat Westmeath in their Leinster quarter-final encounter at the same venue.
They almost pulled it off too with substitute Liam Jackson hitting a 46th minute goal that gave them real hope.
Jackson intervened when Cork tried a short kick-out to Daniel O'Mahony and Louth colleagues Ciaran Downey, Tommy Durnin, Dylan McKeown and Leonard Grey added further points to dramatically level the game up.
Mulroy then nudged Louth 1-14 to 1-13 ahead but they couldn't push on from there as Cork dug deep for a badly needed win.
Cork scorers: Brian Hurley 0-8 (0-6f), Brian O'Driscoll 1-1, Colm O'Callaghan 0-2, Ian Maguire 0-2, Killian O'Hanlon 0-1, Chris Og Jones 0-1, Steven Sherlock 0-1, Sean Powter 0-1, John O'Rourke 0-1, Conor Corbett 0-1.
Louth scorers: Sam Mulroy 0-8 (0-4f), Liam Jackson 1-0, Ciaran Downey 0-2, Craig Lennon 0-1, Conor Early 0-1, Peter Lynch 0-1, Tommy Durnin 0-1, Dylan McKeown 0-1, Leonard Grey 0-1, Conor Grimes 0-1.
CORK: Micheal Aodh Martin; Maurice Shanley, Sean Meehan, Tommy Walsh; Luke Fahy, Daniel O'Mahony, Mattie Taylor; Colm O'Callaghan, Ian Maguire; Killian O'Hanlon, Ruairi Deane, Brian O'Driscoll; Sean Powter, Brian Hurley, Chris Og Jones.
Subs: Kevin O'Donovan for Meehan 21, Steven Sherlock for Powter 48-f/t blood, Cian Kiely for Walsh 49, Eoghan McSweeney for O'Hanlon 55, Conor Corbett for Jones 64, John O'Rourke for Hurley 73.
LOUTH: James Califf; Dermot Campbell, Peter Lynch, Donal McKenny; Anthony Williams, Niall Sharkey, Leonard Grey; Tommy Durnin, Conor Early; Conall McKeever, Ciaran Downey, Bevan Duffy; Paul Mathews, Sam Mulroy, Craig Lennon.
Subs: Daire McConnon for Mathews h/t, Dylan McKeown for Duffy h/t, Liam Jackson for Campbell 39, Conor Grimes for Lennon 43, Conall McCaul for McConnon 65.
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).