Resurgent Cork won their first All-Ireland football title since 1990 with a one-point comeback win over Down at an emotion-filled Croke Park.

After so many setbacks, disappointments and false dawns, the Rebels finally got their hands on the Sam Maguire once again, but they had to dig deep into their reserves of courage and self-belief to see off the Mourne men.

Down led by 0-08 to 0-05 at half-time, but the Rebels turned on the style in the second period, and an eight-points tally from Daniel Goulding and five from Donncha O’Connor helped them over the finish line as they inflicted a first ever All-Ireland football final defeat on Down.

Cork suffered a pre-match blow when injured skipper Graham Canty was withdrawn from the starting fifteen, but they made an explosive start, and Down goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh had to produce a brilliant save to deny Ciaran Sheehan inside the opening minute.

Daniel Goulding converted a free for what was to be one of just two points the Rebels managed in the opening half-hour.

In the meantime, the Mourne Men settled in to perform with style and purpose, with Mark Poland and Martin Clarke providing the clever passes and inside duo John Clarke and Paul McComiskey providing the finishing power.

The hard-working Daniel Hughes also contributed a couple of scores as the Ulster men opened out a 0-07 to 0-02 lead by the 27th minute.

Aidan Walsh garnered plenty of possession around the midfield area, but too often found himself closed down by the eager Down men, with half-backs Declan Rooney, Kevin McKernan and Conor Garvey responsible for a handful of vital turnovers.

And Conor Counihan’s men were unable to deliver the long ball that would test the Down full-back line.

Cork didn’t get their first point from play until the 32nd minute, when Goulding split the posts, and a superb score from Donncha O’Connor narrowed the gap to three at the break.

Counihan introduced the experienced Nicholas Murphy to his midfield at half-time, and while he made an immediate impact, it was Down who stretched the advantage with a delightful angled effort from McComiskey.

Canty joined the action six minutes into the second half with his side still trailing by three, after Goulding had narrowed the deficit from a free.

Now, with a couple of seasoned campaigners there to guide them, Cork enjoyd their best spell of the game, using possession more wisely.

Goulding and O’Connor swept over splendid scores, and it was the flying Paul Kerrigan who sprinted through on 56 minutes to give the Leesiders the lead for the first time since the fifth minute.

Goulding steered over three ‘45s to open out a three-point lead for a Cork side now performing with fluency and conviction.

Down refused to give up, and late scores from Benny Coulter and Hughes narrowed the gap to a single point, but Cork held on to reach the Promised Land.

Cork: A Quirke, E Cadogan, M Shields, R Carey, J Miskella, N O'Leary, P Kissane, A O'Connor, A Walsh, C Sheehan (0-01), P O’Neill, P Kelly, D Goulding (0-09, 4f, 3 ’45), D O’Connor (0-05, 2f), P Kerrigan (0-01).

Subs: N Murphy for A O’Connor, G Canty for P Kissane, C O’Neill for P O’Neill, J Hayes for P Kerrigan

Down: B McVeigh, D McCartan, D Gordon, D Rafferty, D Rooney, K McKernan (0-01), C Garvey, P Fitzpatrick (0-1), K King, D Hughes (0-3), M Poland (0-01), B Coulter (0-01), P McComiskey (0-03), J Clarke (0-01), M Clarke (0-03, 3f).

Subs: C Maginn for J Clarke, R Murtagh (0-1) for P McComiskey, B McArdle for D Rafferty, C Laverty for M Poland

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).