BY KIERAN McCARTHY
GROWING up Damien Gore was like most football-mad kids his age. He always had a ball in his hand. Always practicing. Always kicking. And always dreaming.
His late granduncle, Tim John O’Donoghue, who lived next door to home at Aughatubber, Glandore, used to collect Damien from national school. Together, they spent countless hours kicking a ball, either in the garden or off a wall.
The soft thud of a foot-pass and the bang of a ball off the wall was the soundtrack to most evenings. The dream was to win trophies with Kilmacabea and Cork.
In 2017 Gore tormented local defenders as Kilmacabea won the club’s first-ever Carbery JAFC crown. That was one box ticked. Last Saturday evening in Portlaoise, the lethal forward showed his eye for the posts with four points from play in Cork’s memorable All-Ireland U20 football final triumph against Dublin. It’s days like this Gore dreamt of all those years ago.
‘It’s unbelievable. You don’t get days like this too often,’ Gore told The Southern Star.
‘To win an All-Ireland with Cork is something you’d dream about as a kid so we’ll enjoy it.’
Gore was involved with the Cork seniors during the league but an ankle injury he picked up in May ruled him out of the senior championship with Ronan McCarthy’s men. As it turns out, that was a blessing. If he’d played senior championship he would have been ineligible for the U20 campaign and would have missed this All-Ireland success.
‘This is a day you’ll never forget,’ Gore says.
‘The crowd was outstanding, they were like a 16th man for us. I never heard a roar like that before for a Cork football team. They drove us on with every score.’
Initially, the outlook was bleak when the Dubs streaked 1-6 to 0-0 ahead after 12 minutes. But Blake Murphy’s goal moments later was the spark the Rebels needed to ignite their astonishing comeback.
‘If Dublin got the next score after going nine points up, it would have been more difficult because they are a very good team. Once Blake’s goal went in, it gave everyone more confidence,’ the Cork attacker explains.
‘Once we got into our groove I thought we were outstanding. I’m not sure was it nerves or what early on but the few goals we scored steadied us. We got a hold of midfield as well and that helped the supply of ball into the full-forward line.
‘In the second half we really got on top of them.’
It was exhibition football at times in the second half by Cork. Gore’s three in a row between the 46th and 50th minutes were greeted by huge roars, each louder than the previous. It swelled the lead to 3-13 to 1-13 – and one Cork hand was on the cup.
‘It was very tight in the first half, they brought a lot of bodies back and it was tough to get shots off. In the second half when they fell behind they had to push up and that left a lot of space for the inside forwards, and we also had the wind with us too,’ Gore says.
The talent of the Cork team is unquestionable while their strength of mind defies such a young team – but that’s the influence of manager Keith Ricken and his selectors.
‘They have told us never give up, and no matter what way it’s going have belief in yourself because you wouldn’t be here otherwise. The message is do not give in, keep plugging away and eventually you will get your reward.’
Cork got their reward. And so did Gore. All those evenings he spent kicking a ball with Tim John have paid off.