Cork 1-13 Down 2-9
Colm O’Driscoll netted a sensational winning goal in stoppage time to land a second All-Ireland U21 football championship title in three years for Cork.
An absorbing decider at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise produced the most dramatic of climaxes, with victory snatched from Down’s grasp with just seconds remaining.
The looked to have the title wrapped up when, in resurgent second half display, they grabbed goals through Eamon Toner and Timmy Hanna, but the Rebels refused to contemplate surrender.
The ball-winning ability of the Cork attackers was a key to their first half success, with Colm O’Neil, David Goold and Mark Collins shooting them into a 0-4 to 0-2 lead by the 12th minute.
Paul McComiskey managed just one point off tenacious marker Noel Galvin in the opening half-hour, and they were left to rely on Paul Devlin’s accuracy from frees to keep them in the game.
Nonetheless, they could have had a goal when McComiskey released Michael Magee, but the big midfielder blazed wide.
Another volley of scores from Goold and O’Neill opened up a three points lead, and the Rebels led by 0-8 to 0-5 at half-time.
It was Down , playing into the wind, who seized control in the third quarter, narrowing the gap to a point through McComiskey and midfielder Peter Fitzpatrick.
When Toner ran on to Devlin’s flick to crack home a 45th minute goal, they began to believe they could do it.
It got even better for the Ulster champions eight minutes later when Toner turned provider for wing back and captain Timmy Hanna to drill home a second goal, and they were hanging on to a two points lead as the game slipped into stoppage time.
The game then took another stunning twist, when centre back Aidan Walsh blasted in a shot which was parried by goalkeeper Gavin Joyce, but O’Driscoll was in like a flash to sweep the rebound to the net.
Cork: A Seymour, S McLoughlin, L Jennings, N Galvin, Conor O'Driscoll, A Walsh, B Daly, C O'Donovan, K O'Driscoll, C Sheehan, M Collins (0-2), Colm O'Driscoll (1-0), C O'Neill (0-5, 2f), D Goold (0-5, 3f), P Honohan.
Sub: J Fitzpatrick (0-1) for Sheehan.
Down: G Joyce, M Digney, C Murney, D Turley, T Hanna (1-0), J Fitzpatrick, J Murphy, M Magee, P Fitzpatrick (0-2), E Toner (1-0), C Maginn, J O’Reilly, P Devlin (0-3, 3f), P McComiskey (0-4, 2f), C Poland.
Sub: N Higgins for Digney.
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).