Cork boys hold out for victory
WHILE they were fortunate to hold out for victory in the end, Cork deservedly lifted the All-Ireland (inter-county) Vocational Schools Football crown at the expense of Kildare in a pulsating final at Templetouhy last Saturday.
It was the failure of Kildare's Wayne Fitzpatrick to force extra-time from a scoreable free in stoppage time which ensured that Cork were crowned champions for the third time in five seasons, but they could have been home and hosed long before that had they availed of a couple of clear-cut goal chances in the first half.
Both fell to impressive corner forward Mark Quinn, who was thwarted by the crossbar on each occasion, and, in addition, Cork effectively gifted Kildare three points due to careless turnovers before the break. It meant that, instead of going in at half-time with a healthy advantage, Cork found themselves trailing by 0-6 to 0-3, but they hit the ground running on the resumption, and there was little to indicate they would be forced to endure any late anxiety after they had opened up a four-point gap inside the last quarter
Kildare staged a gutsy comeback to draw level, however, before Gearoid Finn posted what proved to be the decisive score for the Rebels from a free, won by Mark Quinn, in the 57th minute.
Afterwards, Cork manager Hughie Murphy, who was also at the helm for the All-Ireland triumphs in 2008 and 2010, admitted it was much too close for comfort in the end, adding that it was especially sweet to come out on top after such a tremendous contest.
'It was played in the very best of spirit, it was a credit to both teams, and a superb advertisement for a competition which, unfortunately, is going to be suspended now for the next two years. I think it's definitely worth keeping, if only because it allows players from smaller clubs in the county to get a bit of exposure and bring them into the picture as far as the Cork minor selectors are concerned. It's always good for young fellas to gain recognition at representative level, and, hopefully, we will see this competition back after two years,' said Murphy.
As in the semi-final against last year's title winners Donegal, Cork were slow to settle, with the result that Kildare landed a hat-trick of points to move 0-3 to 0-1 ahead with 12 minutes gone
Kildare's third point came from corner forward Niall Flynn after Cork's Keith Dennehy had a pass intercepted, and the Leeside students, with Derek Canty and keeper Donal Casey coughing up possession in quick succession, later gifted two more scores to Flynn, allowing the Leinster kingpins to lead by 0-5 to 0-3 after 28 minutes.
In the interim, Gearoid Barry and Mark Quinn had shared a brace of Cork points, but the crossbar had twice denied Quinn, a constant threat at corner forward, a goal earlier after he had latched on to deliveries from Colm Hyde and Kevin Crowley in turn.
Hyde was entrusted with the task of keeping Kildare's key centre forward Wayne Fitzpatrick in check, and, receiving excellent support from his flankers Crowley and Daniel Nyhan, he accomplished it admirably before the break.
Joe Lynch kept his end up well too at full back for Cork, who lost the services of midfielder Maurice Murphy through injury after 18 minutes. But Murphy's replacement Ian Walsh made an immediate impact following his introduction, and, along with Gary Farrell, he helped to ensure that Kildare were under pressure for much of the second quarter.
The well-disciplined Kildare rearguard, with Bryan Nolan particularly influential at centre back, coped well, however, and Cork found it difficult to make headway up front where only Mark Quinn moved menacingly throughout before the break.
At the other end, Niall Flynn and, to a lesser extent, wing forward Kelvin McNulty stepped up to the plate for Kildare, with a massive point from the latter completing the scoring in what had been a very frustrating first half for Cork. It saw them accumulate seven wides to Kildare's three, and, all things considered, they should have been much more favourably positioned at the interval.
Cork came out with all guns blazing in the second half, and, aided by points from Daniel Nyhan, Daniel O'Connor, Sean Terry O'Sullivan and Mark Quinn, they managed to regain the lead by the 38th minute.
O'Connor, subdued by Kildare's Bryan Nolan before the break, made a significant input on the 40 on the turnover, while O'Sullivan and roaming full forward Gearoid Barry were hugely industrious in attack as Cork, with Gavin O'Shea also putting a shoulder to the wheel and Mark Quinn continuing to show up well, looked ready to power home.
Their momentum was briefly curbed after an off-the-ball indiscretion by corner back Keith Dennehy enabled Wayne Fitzpatrick to break Kildare's second half duck from a free in the 40th minute.
Niall Flynn quickly nudged Kildare in front with another converted free, but Kevin Crowley pulled down the resultant kick-out to surge forward and land the best score of the game, and Cork, with Ian Walsh to the fore at midfield, clicked into top gear again following that boost.
Points from Daniel O'Connor, Sean Terry O'Sullivan and two on the trot from Walsh left them 0-12 to 0-8 to the good approaching the last ten minutes, and they looked on course for a comfortable victory at that juncture. But Kildare enjoyed their best spell on the run-in when Wayne Fitzpatrick was more involved at centre forward, and Bryan Nolan and Niall Flynn were others to spearhead a commendable recovery that brought them back on terms.
Ironically, Cork enjoyed the rub of the green at the death, but, on the general run of the play, one would have to say that justice was done when they remained in front after Gearoid Finn's point from a free broke the stalemate in a gripping finale.
Scorers Cork: G Finn, frees, M Quinn, D O'Connor, S T O'Sullivan and I Walsh 0-2 each, G Barry, D Nyhan and K Crowley 0-1 each. Kildare: N Flynn 0-7, 0-2 frees, K McNulty 0-2, W Fitzpatrick 0-2, 0-1 free, C Jennings 0-1
Cork: D Casey (Pobal Scoil Beanntraí and Bantry Blues), K Dennehy (St Colman's College Midleton and Cloyne), J Lynch (St Brogan's College Bandon and Valley Rovers), D Canty (do and do), K Crowley (Coláiste Treasa Kanturk and Millstreet), C Hyde (Coláiste Ghobnatan Ballyvourney and Naomh Abán), D Nyhan (Clonakilty CC and Ballinascarthy), M Murphy (MICC Dunmanway and Dohenys), G Farrell (St Brogan's and Valley Rovers), G O'Shea (PSB and Bantry Blues), D O'Connor (Coachford College and Eire Óg), S T O'Sullivan (Beara CS and Garnish), G Finn (Kinsale CS and Kinsale), G Barry (Clonakilty CC and Clonakilty), M Quinn (MICC and Dohenys). Subs: I Walsh (Coláiste Treasa and Kanturk) for Murphy (injured), R Cahalane (Kinsale CS and Ballymartle) for O'Shea, M Taylor (Davis College Mallow and Mallow) for Canty.
Kildare: D Byrne, E Dempsey, T O'Connell, J Kennedy, C O'Donoghue, B Nolan, E Farrelly, B Whelan, G Savage, R Casey, W Fitzpatrick, K McNulty, C Jennings, E O'Keeffe, N Flynn. Subs, C Davin for Farrelly, D Hannon for Ryan
Referee: D O'Mahony (Tipperary).
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