1. Dublin’s remarkable consistency
They’re chasing a fourth successive league title and for the second Saturday night in a row, Dublin demonstrated their intentions of keeping that run of spring successes going. They dug out a one-point victory against Monaghan last Saturday and last night produced a 12-point turnaround to see off Cork.
Having been lacklustre in the opening period, Dublin upped the ante in the second-half last night to take the spoils. It means that you have to go back to Killarney on 1 March 2015 for their last defeat between league and championship. Dublin are now 16 games unbeaten and are firmly on course for a place in the last four in April.
2. Another loss for Cork but they show fight here
Despite a sparkling opening win over Mayo, the Cork football forecast has become bleaker since then for new manager Peadar Healy. They got no joy on a tough afternoon in Ballyshannon and then capitulated at home to Roscommon last weekend.
Last night represented a third successive league loss which means Cork are getting set for a scrap at the bottom of the table rather than featuring in the knockout stages as they have grown accustomed to.
But in the wake of the Roscommon hiding, Cork summoned a battling response here. They’ll be disappointed at not protecting their half-time advantage yet there was greater energy and fight. It’s something to build on.
3. Cork’s defensive shape
After leaking 4-25 last weekend, it was easy to identify a priority for Cork entering this game. They sought to shut down Dublin’s gilded forward line and a sturdier defensive setup helped them to do that in the first-half.
Dublin didn’t register a score until in the 22nd minute and it was noticeable how Cork swarmed Dublin players in possession with wing-forwards Mark Collins and Colm O’Driscoll working ferociously hard at the back.
Cork’s defensive match-ups were improved and they were not prised apart as frequently. The problem was in the second-half Cork did not enjoy as much control at midfield, meaning the pressure was increased on their defence and their tackling was sloppier, as evidenced by the amount of points Cormac Costello racked up from frees.
4. Dublin lose a wing-back but still possess a star in that sector
The post-match news confirming that Jack McCaffrey will not be available this summer means Dublin’s All-Ireland winning defence is now stripped of two cornerstones, after January’s news that Rory O’Carroll was departing to New Zealand.
With the loss of a rampaging half-back, there was a timely reminder in the finale that Dublin still possess another half-back who can hurt opposing teams with surges forward.
James McCarthy displayed his brilliant athleticism by knifing through the Cork defence for the clinching goal to the delight of Hill 16 fans. In the first-half McCarthy’s runs were targeted as knots of Cork players bunched around him yet he kept surging forward and got his reward.
5. Cork’s new attacking figure
On Wednesday night Peter Kelleher will be part of the Cork side sitting their opening exam in the EirGrid Munster U21 football championship. That is his own age grade but he’s left his mark at a higher level of late.
Last Sunday Kelleher scored two goals and narrowly missed another against Roscommon. Last night he raised another green flag, was fouled for a penalty that Colm O’Neill netted and hit the post in the second-half.
He’s a good focal point for Cork’s attacks and offers a clear goalscoring threat. It’s a weapon Cork will hope to unleash further as 2016 progresses.
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