Cork gave themselves a lifeline with a win over Armagh but they didn’t get the life-raft they needed as Clare’s win over Tipperary means the Rebels will be playing Division Three football for the next season, for their first time ever.
In was an enthralling finish with Armagh looking to have done enough to draw level but two late points from subsitutes Damien Gore and Cian Keily was enough to seal victory, but not enough for a stay of execution.
As expected Cork were playing we greater hunger with their survival instinct clearly intact and two first half goals from Brian Hurley and late netted effort from Kevin Crowley helped put them into a winning position.
As expected Cork were playing we greater hunger with their survival instinct clearly intact. Armagh on the otherhand looked a little flat early on and the Rebels were fully worthy of their six points lead at the break.
Armagh got off to an encouraging start as Jarly Og Burns fisted over in the opening minute in a move that could have even resulted in a goal.
But with only four minutes gone and in Cork’s first attack Hurley had the ball in the net, when he rifled home from close range, following excellent approach play by Sean White and Mark Collins.
Two inspirational long-range points from the brilliant Eoghan Sweeney extended the Rebels lead and with only nine minute played Hurley blasted past Blaine Hughes for his second goal and give Cork a gut-warming 2-2 to 0-01 lead.
John O’Rourke and then Cillian O’Hanlon tagged on further points but Armagh hit back with a brace of points from captain Grugan, in a move that could have conjured up a goal.
Two further points from Mark Collins left the Munster men sitting pretty heading towards the break when Armagh introduced Jamie Clarke and then Jemar Hall and Grugan tagged on points, but Cork started the second half with a numerical advantage as midfielder Niall Grimley was sin-binned.
Armagh arguably finished with a stronger team than they started with but they certainly gave Cork more of a contest with the Crossmaglen trio of Clarke, Rian O’Neill and James Morgan making an impact.
The Orchard men rallied early in the second half with Grugan , Rian O’Neill and Niall Grimley chipping in with points before Collins replied for Cork.
Points from Joe McElroy and Pearse Casey left the minimum between the sides before Crowley bagged Cork’s third goal with 61 minutes played. But just as quickly that was cancelled out when talisman Jamie Clarke converted spot-kick after McElroy had been fouled.
Rory Grugan’s converted free levelled the scores with 66 minutes played and the game seemed to be slipping from Cork’s grasp, but they displayed courage and conviction when it mattered and those late points Gore and Kiely proved enough as Armagh could only reply with an O’Neill converted free.
It is a dark day for Cork football, but with the proceeds of the half-time draw in the Athletic Grounds going to the fund to assist former Cork All-Ireland winner Kieran O’Connor and his battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, it was a sharp reminder or the bigger picture.
Armagh: Blaine Hughes, Paddy Burns, Joe McIroy (0-1), Paul Hughes, Ryan Kennedy, Brendan Donaghy, Aidan Forker (0-1), Jarly Og Burns (0-1), Niall Grimley (0-1), Rory Grugan (0-5, 4 frees), Charlie Vernon, Jemar Hall (0-1), Ethan Rafferty, Pearse Casey (0-1, free), Stefan Campbell (1-0, pen).
Subs: Jamie Clarke for Campbell (30’), Rian O’Neill (0-3, 2 frees), for Vernon (44’), James Morgan for Hughes (51’), Aidan Nugent for Casey (58’),
Cork: Mark White, Kevin Flahive, Thomas Clancy, Conor Dennehy, Kevin Crowley (1-1, free), Thomas Clancy, Conor Dennehy, Ian Maguire, Tomas Clancy, Mattie Taylor, Ian Maguire, Cillian O’Hanlon (0-1), Eoghan McSweeney (0-2), John O’Rourke, Ruairi Deane, Brian Hurley (2-0) Mark Collins (0-2), Sean White.
Subs: Kevin O’Driscoll for O’Rourke (26’), Cian Keily (0-2) for Taylor (ht’)Damien Gore (0-1) for Turley (48’), Peter Kelleher for McSweeney (65’), Stephen Cronin for S White (73’).