But there was enough at Semple Stadium yesterday to suggest that the raging hot favourites for this year’s All-Ireland minor football title aren’t over the line just yet.
A gritty, stubborn Cork side put Cyril Kevlihan’s outfit to the pin of their collar to earn an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Donegal, but the concession of two goals in the first 14 minutes was Cork’s undoing.
The chase was always game, and when Shane Kingston struck a 53rd-minute Cork goal to reduce the gap to two points (2-11 to 1-12), it was a pretty stern gut-check for the Dublin teenagers.
To their credit, they recovered their poise quickly, earning two penalties in the final eight minutes, neither of which they netted.
Colm Basquel’s first in the 54th minute struck a post and he pointed the second, on the advice of management, in the final seconds to secure the four-point win.
Cork manager Donal O’Sullivan politely suggested afterwards that Mayo referee Jerome Henry hadn’t done them any favours and certainly Cork defender Seanie Powter seemed to be fouled in the build-up to Dublin’s second goal in the 14th minute from Chris Sallier. That eased Dublin into a 2-1 to 0-5 lead, against the run of play it should be said — but the razor-sharpness of Sallier and his full-forward Con O’Callaghan was self-evident. They claimed 2-9 between them, 2-5 of it from play.
Not that Cork’s full-back line ever let their heads drop. Powter, Kevin Flahive and John Mullins all worked like dervishes, along with wing-backs Sean O’Donoghue and Maidhc Ó Duinnin, and No 10 Gary Murphy from Castletownbere.
Dual talent Con O’Callaghan kept Dublin’s lead beyond one-score to the break, where they swapped ends 2-6 to 0-8 ahead.
Importantly, Cork lost Michael Hurley to an ankle injury just before half-time, and they momentarily looked like they had lost their self-belief as points from Sallier and midfielder Eoghan McHugh (2) stretched Dublin’s lead to an ominous 2-10 to 0-9 after 42 minutes. Cork keeper Anthony Kidney also made a point-blank block from sub Rian McBride as the favourites threatened to put themselves out of reach.
Though they missed frees and other chances, Cork’s persistence didn’t wane. Cian Kiely grew impressively into the game and pointed, and Dan Ó Duinnin added another before the break they’d been waiting for. Damien Buckley fed an over-lapping Sean O’Donoghue who teed up Shane Kingston for the goal — the Douglas lad showing the value of two good feet with a crisp left-peg finish.
If it rattled Dublin, they didn’t betray it. O’Callaghan was fouled by Flahive for the 56th-minute penalty that hit the post, but it was Na Fianna midfielder McHugh, Basquel from Ballyboden and Cuala’s O’Callaghan who powered saw the Dubs home.
Kevlihan said: “It might have been more comfortable with the two penalties but our lads had the character when it was needed. Cork are a good team, they lost young Hurley who is a key man for them, just before half-time and that undoubtedly impacted on them.”
His Cork counterpart was no less proud of his charges, many of them in tears at the final whistle.
“I would question the validity of both Dublin goals, but we also kicked a few wides in the second half when we needed scores. You’d have to be proud of their effort.”
Scorers for Dublin: C O’Callaghan 0-8 (4f), C Sallier 2-1, C Basquel 0-3 (1 pen), E McHugh 0-2.
Scorers for Cork: S Kingston 1-2; G Murphy, S Roynane 0-2 each; S O’Donoghue, C Kiely, M Ó Duinnín, B Coakley, M Ó Deasuna (f), D Ó Duinnín (f), M Hurley 0-1 each.
CORK: A Kidney (Passage West); J Mullins (Éire Óg), K Flahive (Douglas), S Powter (Douglas); S O’Donoghue (Inniscarra), C Kiely (Ballincollig), M Ó Duinnín (Naomh Aban); B Coakley (Carrigaline), M Ó Deasuna (Cill na Martra); G Murphy (Castletownbere), D Ó Duinnín (Cill na Martra), D Lowney (Clonakilty); S Roynane (Clyda Rovers), S Kingston (Douglas), M Hurley (Castlehaven).
Subs: S O’Donovan (Ilen Rvs) for Lowney (16), C O’Donovan (Clonakilty) for Hurley (inj, 25), D O’Neill (Mayfield) for O Deasuna (37), D Buckley (Ballyclough) for S O’Donovan (45), T Bushe (Ilen Rovers) for Coakley (52), E O’Sullivan (Douglas) for Roynane (57).
DUBLIN: E Whelan (Trinity Gaels); D Monahan (Clontarf), J Mullins (St Brigids), E Murchan (Na Fianna); A Fee (Naomh Mearnog), S Clayton (Ballyboden St Endas), G O’Reilly (Na Fianna); A Foley (Clontarf), E McHugh (Na Fianna); W Egan (Ballyboden St Endas), C Basquel (Ballyboden St Endas), J Burke (St Maur’s); A Byrne (Na Fianna), C O’Callaghan (Cuala), C Sallier (Thomas Davis).
Subs: C Kavanagh (Ballymun Kickhams) for Burke (17), A McGowan (Kilmacud Crokes) for Fee (22), B McBride (St Vincent’s) for Egan (35), C Murphy (Thomas Davis) for Foley (48).
Referee: J Henry (Mayo).