Cork were not the hapless opponents many had anticipated and made life difficult for Dublin, particularly in the first half, even if they never looked like winning. But long before the final whistle Dublin had secured a place in the last four of the All-Ireland series for the thirteenth time in a row.
Dessie Farrell’s side has yet to face a team that will play in Division 1 next season in this year’s championship. Nonetheless winning their four games so far by a combined total of 61 points underlines their confidence and competency.
However, it wasn’t a vintage performance from Dublin. They failed to create a single goal chance and nine of their scores came from placed balls converted by Dean Rock. The kicking game which had had utilised so effectively in the Leinster championship was largely absent and they missed Con O’Callaghan in particular.
Cork probably exceeded their own expectations by reaching the last eight of the Sam Maguire series having barely survived relegation from Division 2. They last won a championship game in Croke Park – against Galway – in 2013 and have now lost six games in a row at HQ.
Injuries to James McCarthy and O’Callaghan resulted in Dublin reshuffling their forces with Jonny Cooper coming into the defence and Paddy Small starting up front while Niall Scully was preferred to Lorcan O’Dell in the half-forward line.
Cork made one change from the side that beat Limerick in Round 2 of the qualifiers; Paul Ring who replaced replaced Daniel Dineen lined out at corner-back with Sean Powter acting as the sweeper the Rebels deploying five forwards.
This was the first meeting between the sides since a Super 8 clash in 2019 which Dublin won by 13 points, scoring five goals in the process.
Seagulls had descended on GAA Headquarters at the throw-in as Cork pulled all their players behind the ball once they surrendered possession. By the ninth minute Dublin were three points to one up with the pick of the them coming from the boot of Lee Gannon.
Cork were winning all their restarts, but the marksmanship of both sides left much to be desired in the windy conditions. By the 15th minute both sides had registered four wides each.
Back-to-back points from Brian Hurley who was winning his individual battle with Eoin Murchan left it a one point game in the 19th minute before Sean Bulger, who had been booked earlier for a foul on Kevin O’Donovan, replied for Dublin.
Gradually Dublin turned the screw, forcing Cork to go long with their restarts, winning two-in a row and outscoring their opponents 4-1 – two of the points coming from converted Dean Rock frees.
But the Cork full-forward line had the measure of the Dublin full-backs, and the underdogs had the better of the exchanges in the closing stages of the first half. Points from a converted mark from Steven Sherlock and an excellent Eoghan McSweeney effort left them trailing by three at the break, 0-10; 0-7.
Cork’s massed defence essentially prevented Dublin from deploying their kicking game which had proved so effective in the Leinster championship and the Rebels never looked out of their depth in the half.
Dublin were far more clinical in their execution of scores with Niall Scully winning two early second half frees which Rock converted. At the other end Jonny Cooper blocked a shot from Hurley but Sherlock missed the resultant 45.
The Dubs continued to stretch their lead though they only managed to score one point from play through Brian Fenton in the first 15 minutes of the second period, but Cork failed to raise a flag during this spell as their kick-out came under increasing pressure.
Cork finally found their first point of the second stanza after 55 minutes through John O’Rourke. Two pointed frees from Cathal O’Mahony followed to leave it an eight-point game with less than ten minutes of normal time remaining.
But realistically the prospects of a sustained Cork comeback was never more than a pipe dream and Dublin tagged on another four points before the end with only a single reply from Cork. Both sides ran their bench with Dublin hurling captain Eoghan O’Donnell making his debut for the footballers in the closing minutes.
The biggest jeer of the second half was reserved for former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland captain Roy Keane when the camera panned to him in the stand.
Overall Dublin will be more satisfied with their second half performance. They hit 11 points with just three replies from Cork. But John Cleary’s side deserve credit for preventing Dublin scoring their trade mark goals but they gave away far too many close-in frees and Dean Rock repeatedly punished them.
Dublin: D Rock 0-9 (8f, 1 m),C Kilkenny 0-3, B Fenton, L Gannon 0-2, C Costello, T Lahiff , P Small S,Bugler, A Byrne 0-1 each
Cork: S Sherlock (2f, 1m),C O’Mahony (2f) 0-3 each, B Hurley 0-2, E McSweeney, J O’Rourke 0-1 each
DUBLIN – E Comerford; L Gannon, E Murchan, M Fitzsimons; J Cooper, B Howard, J Small; B Fenton, T Lahiff; N Scully, S Bugler C Kilkenny; C Costello, D Rock, P Small. Subs: L O’Dell for Bugler (52), C Murphy for Cooper (56), A Byrne for P Small (60), E O’Donnell for Murchan (68), D Byrne for J Small (69)
CORK – M Martin; S Powter, M Shanley, K O’Donovan; M Taylor, R Maguire, J Cooper; I Maguire, C O’Callaghan; P Ring, E McSweeney, J O’Rourke;, B Hurley, S Sherlock, C O’Mahony. Subs; D Dineen for McSweeney (49), S Meehan for Ring (49), B Hayes for Sherlock (53), C Kelly for Cooper (55), B Murphy for O’Callaghan (69)
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)