A late Derry revival almost caught out Cork, but the Rebels made it five straight Allianz FL Division 3 wins in front of a crowd of 1,874 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday.
Having been cruising for most of the second half, Cork moved ten points ahead as their third goal, John O'Rourke’s second, was followed by a point from sub Michael Hurley to move them ten clear.
However, Ronan McCarthy’s side would only add one more point, with Derry digging deep to almost stage a full recovery. Emmett Bradley’s goal on 66 gave hope to Rory Gallagher’s side, with a free from Shane McGuigan cutting the gap to five.
While Cork’s Damien Gore fisted over to give himself a tally of 1-03, Derry still came and had another goal when Niall Keenan set up sub Patrick Kearney. McGuigan’s sixth free of the game cut the lead to two but no more scores would accrue for the Oak Leaf County, with a late delivery goalwards by Carlus McWilliams claimed by Cork’s Mattie Taylor.
Victory means Cork have ten points, three clear of Down and Longford with two games remaining, so they know that just a point is needed from the clashes against Louth and Longford to fully guarantee an immediate return to Division 2.
For much of the encounter, they looked a superior side to Derry, with Damien Gore’s 18th minute goal making it 1-03 to 0-01 after he pounced when goalkeeper Odhrán Lynch tried to take a free short to Pádraig McGrogan.
A point from Gore put Cork six ahead, though a 45 from Lynch and a Bradley point brough Derry back in touch.
That four-point margin still pertained at half-time, Cork going in with a 1-05 to 0-04 lead, but the Rebels pushed on after the restart, with sub Cathail O’Mahony and John O’Rourke on target before O’Rourke made it an eight-point game, 2-08 to 0-06 as he palmed home following a good run and pass from Seán Powter.
That looked to have put to bed any doubts about the outcome, but with ten minutes remaining Derry cut the gap back to six points when Niall Loughlin netted following good work from Ciarán McFaul and Patrick Kearney.
Cork conjured an immediate response though as Paul Kerrigan’s quick free allowed O’Rourke to fire home his second goal and Hurley’s point left ten in it. Ultimately, they had done enough, but not without a fright from Derry.
Cork: Anthony Casey; Tomás Clancy, Maurice Shanley, Paul Ring; Liam O'Donovan, Seán Powter, Mattie Taylor; Ian Maguire, Killian O’Hanlon; John O’Rourke (2-02, 0-01 mark), Seán White, Brian Hartnett; Paul Kerrigan, Luke Connolly (0-02, 0-01 free), Damien Gore (1-03, 0-01 mark).
Subs: Cathail O’Mahony (0-04, 0-02 frees) for Connolly (26, injured), Kevin O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers) for Liam O’Donovan (35, injured), Eoghan McSweeney (0-01) for Hartnett (45), Michael Hurley (0-01) for Kerrigan (62), James Loughrey for Powter (64).
Derry: Odhrán Lynch (0-01 45); Pádraig McGrogan, Brendan Rogers, Carlus McWilliams (0-01 mark); Shea Downey, Chrissy McKaigue, Niall Keenan; Ciarán McFaul, Pádraig Cassidy (0-01); Emmett Bradley (1-01), Niall Loughlin (1-01, 0-01 free), Danny Tallon; Benny Heron, Shane McGuigan (0-06 frees), Niall Toner.
Subs: Liam McGoldrick for Cassidy (43), Patrick Kearney (1-00) for Toner (43), Conor Doherty for Tallon (57), Declan Cassidy for Heron (62).
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford).