KIERAN McCARTHY REPORTS
IN the end, it took extra-time, but when you’ve waited 19 years since your last All-Ireland MFC title, an extra 20 minutes was more than tolerable.
The Cork minors won the county’s first All-Ireland minor football crown since 2000 after an epic battle with Galway in Croke Park – and the young Rebels won it the hard way.
Deep in injury time at the end of normal time, after Galway goaled to move three ahead, Cork’s dreams looked shattered. But captain fantastic Conor Corbett – who finished with 1-7 – instantly replied with a Cork goal to level this thriller, 2-13 apiece.
There was still time for Galway to win a free that would have clinched this All-Ireland title but it was at a difficult angle for Tomo Culhane, so, all level, it was extra-time needed to separate the two.
Bobbie O’Dwyer’s boys took over in the first ten-minute period, inspired by a goal 22 seconds in by super sub Ryan O’Donovan. Corbett and Michael O’Neill (2) added scores as Cork surged 3-16 to 2-13 ahead, and they still held a six-point lead at the break in extra-time, 3-17 to 2-14.
The Cork lead swelled to eight early in the second half when O’Donovan and O’Neill scored into the Hill 16 end to push Cork 3-19 to 2-14 in front. And there was no stopping Cork, despite a second goal for Galway’s Niall Cunningham cutting the gap to five, 3-19 to 3-14, after 76 minutes. Corbett added the final Cork score to seal a stunning win that didn’t look likely after a first half that Galway had the better of, and led 0-8 to 0-5 at the break.
Cork struggled to break down the Galway defence and it was the Connacht runners-up that looked the more dangerous, especially with full forward Tomo Culhane leading the charge.
After a brace from Corbett moved Cork 0-2 to 0-1 ahead after ten minutes, Culhane reeled off three in a row to send Galway two clear, 0-4 to 0-2, after 16 minutes. Michael O’Neill narrowed the gap to one, but it was Galway who moved three in front, 0-6 to 0-3, with a brace from Daniel Cox. Cork stopped the Galway momentum when Corbett scored his third of the half, set-up by Jack Cahalane.
The lead was stretched to four when Nathan Grainger and Culhane (free) hit the target, but a much-needed Darragh Cashman point in injury-time reduced the half-time gap to a more manageable three, 0-8 to 0-5.
Galway moved back into a four-point lead early in the second half, 0-10 to 0-6, before Jack Cahalane finished off a Cork move with a goal to breathe new life into their challenge. Game on. Darragh Cashman levelled with his second before Corbett nudged Cork in front, 1-8 to 0-10.
Galway replied with two scores through Grainger and Culhane to then go back into the lead, but three Cork points in a row – from O’Neill, Corbett and Cahalane – saw the Munster men 1-11 to 0-12 ahead after 54 minutes.
Then came the first of three goals in a whirlwind spell. Daniel Cox’s rocket for Galway saw them lead 1-12 to 1-11, and after an O’Neill free levelled the game, Culhane (free) and sub Luke Murphy swapped points in injury time. Galway sub Niall Cunningham looked to have won the final when he scored with a bullet in the 63rd minute – but Cork’s reply was instant when Corbett goaled at the other end.
After Galway missed that late free to win the title, it was into extra time where Cork took over – and they have brought the All-Ireland back to Lee-side!
Cork: Conor Corbett 1-7; Michael O’Neill 0-6 (3f); Ryan O’Donovan 1-2; Jack Cahalane 1-1; Darragh Cashman 0-2; Patrick Campbell, Luke Murphy 0-1 each.
Galway: Tomo Culhane 0-10 (7f); Daniel Cox 1-2; Niall Cunningham 2-0, Nathan Grainger 0-2.
Cork: Cian O'Leary (Douglas); Adam Walsh Murphy (Valley Rovers), Daniel Linehan (Castlemagner), Daniel Peet (Clonakilty); Darragh Cashman (Millstreet), Neil Lordan (Ballinora), Joseph O’Shea (Urhan); Jack Lawton (Argideen Rangers), Kelan Scannell (Carbery Rangers); Hugh Murphy (Eire Óg), Conor Corbett (Clyda Rovers), Eoghan Nash (Douglas); Michael O’Neill (Buttevent), Patrick Campbell (Nemo Rangers), Jack Cahalane (Castlehaven).
Subs: Sean Andrews (Shamrocks) for Peet (35), Nathan Gough (Bishopstown) for O’Shea (45), Luke Murphy (Cullen) for Nash (51), Ryan O’Donovan (Barryroe) for Cahalane (60), Tadhg O’Donoghue (Carrignavar) for Walsh Murphy (69, et), Cahalane for Campbell (75, et), Nash for Lawton (77, et).
Galway: Donie Halleran; Jonathan McGrath, Ruairi King, Liam Tevnan; Cian Hernon, Ethan Fiorentini, Kyle O’Neill; James McLaughlin, Daniel O’Flaherty; Evan Nolan, Warren Seoige, Dylan Brady; Nathan Grainger, Tomo Culhane, Daniel Cox. Subs: Conal Gallagher for O’Flaherty (52), Niall Cunningham for Grainger (56), Darragh Kennedy for Nolan (56), James Webb for Hernon (57), Mark Colleran for Brady (5, et).
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).