BY NOEL HORGAN
IT might not be too wide of the mark to suggest that the foundations for Cork’s victory were laid in the first ten minutes of the second half.
Having had a four-point advantage cut to the minimum before the break, it was very important for Cork to make a positive start on the resumption, and no player did more to ensure that they hit the ground running than corner forward Michael Hurley.
As well as posting two points, Hurley, after earning a free, placed Sean Powter for another, and the kick-out following Powter’s score was brilliantly fielded by Ryan Harkin, who set Sean O’Donoghue up for a point.
It meant the Carlow IT student had made an indelible impact on the proceedings, and his contribution overall made him an obvious choice as the TG4 man-of-the-match.
Little wonder then that Hurley was beaming from ear to ear as he reflected on how Cork booked their place in an All-Ireland final at Monaghan’s expense in Tullamore last Saturday.
‘Monaghan kinda congested things at the back early in the match, but the game opened up a bit as the first half went on, which obviously suited our forwards a lot better,’ Hurley said.
‘We had a few purple-patches in the first half, but we missed a fair few chances, and I missed a goal myself, but we knew there’d be more coming, and, thankfully, we took them.’
The Castlehaven clubman agreed that the Cork full-forward line performed excellently, adding that he felt privileged to be operating alongside Peter Kelleher and Brian Coakley up front.
‘We knew we had a strong full-forward line this year, to be honest, although we didn’t perform as well as we would have liked in the Munster final against Kerry,’ Hurley said.
‘We were penetrating Kerry by running at them, so there wasn’t an urgent need to get the ball into the full-forward line on the night.
‘I suppose it was the one thing from last week (against Kerry) we felt we could improve on, because we knew we could hurt Monaghan if we used our full-forward line more, and that’s the way it turned out.
‘It’s absolutely massive to be in an All-Ireland final now. This win tastes all the sweeter because of the fact that, as in the Kerry game, we had to dig very deep to achieve it.
‘It’s not as pleasing when you are beating teams easily, and you certainly enjoy it a lot more when you win by one or two points.
‘We showed great character to get over the line again against Monaghan, which is a huge thing to have in a team, and it means that all the hard work we’ve put in over the last few months has been worth it,’ stated Hurley.
He accepts, however, that it’s going to take another big performance in order to win the final against Mayo.
‘Mayo football is blooming at the moment, and they beat a strong Dublin side (on Saturday), so we know we’ll be facing a massive challenge in the final.
‘We’re delighted to be involved in it, especially in view of the way Cork football has been going over the past two or three years.
‘I think it’s huge for Cork in general terms, and hopefully it will give the seniors and the whole county a bit of a boost,’ said Hurley, who will be eligible for duty with the U21 team again next year.
The All-Ireland U21 football final against Mayo is on in Cusack Park, Ennis, on April 30th, at 6pm.