THERE was a very definite taste of West Cork in Croke Park last Sunday as the Rebels won the very first All-Ireland U17 hurling final.
Cork held off the late advances of Dublin to record an historic 1-19 to 1-17 victory, and there playing important roles were three players from west of the viaduct â full back CiarÃ¡n Nyan (Ballinascarthy/Owen Gaels), midfielder Sean Twomey (Courcey Rovers) and first-half blood sub Ronan McCarthy (St Oliver Plunkett's/Owen Gaels).
This was Cork's first national hurling championship win in Croke Park in 12 years and it's hoped that the county's seniors and minors can follow in the footsteps of John Considine's talented U17s.
âIt hasn't sunk in, to be honest,' Cork full back CiarÃ¡n Nyhan admitted.
âWe knew that Dublin are a very good side and that they are very organised.
âWe played them twice in two challenge games this year and we didn't beat them â we drew with them and lost the other by a point.
âGoing in Sunday we knew what we were up against, we always knew it was going to be very close.
âJohn Considine always tells us we are at our best when we are under pressure and we showed that again, especially in the second half.'
And that's exactly how this inaugural All-Ireland U17 final turned out, as Cork led 1-9 to 1-8 at the break, stretched that lead to three points in the third quarter (1-14 to 1-11), with Daire Connery, Colin O'Brien and Declan Hanlon combining for 0-14 throughout and Joe Stack grabbing a first-half goal.
Dublin were reduced to 14 players after 41 minutes but they kept chipping away at Cork's lead. But Rebel sub Owen McCarthy helped himself to two points, as this young Cork team delivered an All-Ireland title.
âIt's amazing, to think that we have this reward after four years of training. We were originally training for the Cork minor panel for next year but then the ages were changed â but winning on Sunday felt just as good as a minor would,' CiarÃ¡n Nyhan said, as a new wave of West Cork hurlers make an impression on the big stage.
âLuke Meade (Newcestown) and Michael Cahalane (Bandon) have proved that even if you're from West Cork it's still possible to play at the highest level.
âIf you go through the underage squads you'll find players from clubs all across West Cork, which is good to see. There are a lot of good young hurlers in West Cork.'
Clonakilty Community College student Nyhan (17) has been part of the hurling development set-up since his U14 days, and now the Bal teenager and his inter-county team-mate Ronan McCarthy are targeting more silverware closer to home with Owen Gaels in a Rebel Ãg West minor A hurling championship semi-final.
Cork: Daire Connery 0-6 (5f), Colin O'Brien 0-5 (3f), Declan Hanlon 0-3, Joe Stack 1-0, Blake Murphy, Owen McCarthy 0-2 each, Cormac O'Brien 0-1.
Dublin: Liam Murphy 0-7f, Eddie Gibbons 1-1 (1-1 pen), Lee Gannon, Billy Ryan 0-2 each, Enda O'Donnell, Tom Aherne, MÃcheÃ¡l Murphy (1f), Mark Grogan, Kevin Kirwan 0-1 each.
Cork: Eoin Davis (St Catherine's); Eoin Roche (Bride Rovers), CiarÃ¡n Nyhan (Ballinascarthy), Ronan Sheehan (Mallow); Cormac O'Brien (Newtownshandrum), Conor O'Callaghan (Dromtariffe), Aaron Walsh Barry (Carrigtwohill); Daire Connery (Na Piarsaigh), Sean Twomey (Courcey Rovers); Tommy O'Connell (Midleton), Declan Hanlon (Blarney), Brian Roche (Bride Rovers); Blake Murphy (Na Piarsaigh), Joe Stack (Castlemartyr), Colin O'Brien (Liscarroll Churchtown Gaels).
Subs: Ronan McCarthy for Cormac O'Brien (blood sub 23-30), Owen McCarthy (Inniscarra) for O'Connell (35), Shane Barrett (Blarney) for Murphy (52).
Dublin: Eddie Gibbons; Andrew Dunphy, Kevin Burke, Tommy Kinnane; Sean Kinsella, Enda O'Donnell, Lee Gannon; Tom Aherne, MÃcheÃ¡l Murphy; Kevin Kirwan, Billy Ryan, Mark Grogan; Luke McDwyer, Kevin Desmond, Liam Murphy.Â
Subs: Sean Clerkin for Desmond (44), Liam Dunne for M Murphy (52), Mark Sweeney for Kirwan (54).
Referee: John Keane (Galway).