/ GAA

Dublin 2-16 Cork 3-18

Updated: Sunday, 09 Mar 2008 20:33

Cork's John Gardiner and Peter Kelly of Dublin get to grips with each other
Cork's John Gardiner and Peter Kelly of Dublin get to grips with each other

A full 31 weeks after their last competitive outing, Cork's hurlers got their NHL campaign up and running by beating Dublin at Parnell Park this afternoon.

Substitute Fintan O'Leary's injury-time goal put a gloss on what was a tough encounter for Gerald McCarthy's ring rusty side.

Neil Ronan kicked home a second-minute goal for Cork but a Kevin Flynn goal and seven points from free-taker Stuart Mullen had Dublin leading 1-12 to 1-06 at half-time.

Ronan, who finished with a 2-04 tally, and Dublin substitute Peter Kelly swapped further goals in the second half before O'Leary crowned Cork's comeback.

The Rebels' return to senior inter-county hurling looked like it might start with a bang when Ronan took advantage of a hesitant Dublin defence to kick past goalkeeper Gary Maguire, at the second attempt.

However, thriving on a direct and skilful style of hurling and backed by the breeze, Dublin led 0-04 to 1-00 after five minutes' play - thanks to points from Mullen (0-02), Ross O'Carroll and John McCaffrey.

Mullen helped himself to five early points - four of them from frees - and former Dublin senior footballer David 'Dotsy' O'Callaghan also added his name to the scoresheet.

With their match fitness topped up by outings against Antrim and Kilkenny, the Dubs were undoubtedly the sharper side in the opening quarter.

Cork were struggling to get to the pace of the game and conceded their first goal in the 16th-minute. A long sideline ball in from Simon Lambert was whipped off the ground by Flynn and into the roof of Donal Óg Cusack's net.

A few minutes later Dublin were 1-10 to 1-01 to the good and a shock result looked on the cards. It may well have come had Peadar Carton not missed a very good goal chance from 13 metres out after an O'Callaghan set-up.

McCarthy tinkered with his team before the interval and the changes seemed to pay off as John Gardiner, Ronan and Pat Horgan (free) all pointed to help Cork close out the half in good form.

The Rebels succeeded in reducing the arrears further when the game restarted. Gardiner flung over a free after only 27 seconds and Pa Cronin also bisected the posts.

With Tom Kenny now dominating around midfield, the Dubs were getting less and less scoring chances and a Declan O'Dwyer effort was their only point of the second half's opening 16 minutes.

Kenny slotted a point and then helped tee up Ronan's second goal in the 49th-minute, which edged Cork 2-11 to 1-13 ahead. The midfielder's initial shot was saved by Maguire but the lurking Ronan was able to tap home the rebound.

O'Callaghan then rallied Dublin by firing over a quick brace of points and he went on a powerful run before passing for substitute Kelly to rasp home a goal with only a quarter-of-an-hour remaining.

That score put Dublin back in front at 2-15 to 2-12 but Cork had the class and determination to swing the game back in their favour.

They nabbed three points in a row from Gardiner, Kenny and Ronan to level the tie.

Lambert was inches wide with a line ball at the other end, yet a final flourish from the visitors was enough to seal the result.

They claimed a flattering third goal in the dying seconds when O'Leary got in on the end of a Kieran Murphy sideline to flick past the unfortunate Maguire.

DUBLIN: G Maguire; P Brennan, S Hiney, P Bergin; M Carton, T Brady, J Boland; J McCaffrey (0-01), S Lambert; S Mullen (0-07, 0-06f), D O'Dwyer (0-02), R O'Carroll (0-01); D O'Callaghan (0-05, 0-02f), K Flynn (1-00), P Carton.

Subs used: P Kelly (1-00) for Mullen (50 mins), Alan McCrabbe for Carton (64), D Curtin for O'Carroll (65).

CORK: D Óg Cusack; S O'Neill, D O'Sullivan, C O'Connor; E Cadogan, J Gardiner (0-03, 0-01f, 0-01 '65'), K McGann (0-01); T Kenny (0-03), J Barrett; K Murphy, B Corry (0-02), T McCarthy (0-01); P Horgan (0-02), N Ronan (2-04), P Cronin (0-02).

Subs used: K Canty for Barrett (25 mins), S Murphy for O'Callaghan (29), K Hartnett for Cadogan (46), F O'Leary (1-00) for Horgan (56).

Referee: Sean Whelan (Wexford)