Cork 3-9 - Kerry 1-14: A Cian Dorgan point two minutes into second-half stoppages handed victory to Cork in this enthralling Munster U21 decider.
The visitors to Tralee had been thrown onto the ropes less than a minute earlier after Kerry sub Tony Brosnan kicked the levelling point following excellent approach play by Greg Horan and Michéal Burns.
Following, as it did, a Jack Savage free, Kerry’s dander was up, and, truth be told, the home outfit had held the upper hand on their opponents ever since Sean White’s rasping goal strike to the roof of the Kerry net on 46 minutes.
Cork’s third goal had moved Sean Hayes’ young charges 3-7 to 1-11 in front, but thereafter, a step up in the intensity of Kerry’s play, coupled with a couple of hair-pulling mistakes from the visitors, saw Cork retreat onto the back foot.
Indeed, were it not for a superb goal-line clearance by Kieran Histon on 50 minutes to deny Dara Roche, Kerry would have been celebrating a second green flag. The ensuing ’45 was kicked short to Michéal Burns and the centre-forward duly obliged in reducing the gap to the minimum.
Stephen Sherlock, disappointed with two poor wides upon his introduction, redeemed himself with a close-range free on 53 minutes. Another nine minutes would pass before Dorgan sent over the winner from a tight angle on the right wing, a period during which several questions were asked of the Cork defence. And aside from the misplaced short kick-out which led to Savage’s fourth free, the Stephen Cronin-marshalled rearguard kept their heads above the parapet for the most part.
The foundations for Cork’s 26th Munster title at this grade, and sixth since 2009, were laid during a rousing opening period where the visitors outworked, outsmarted and outran the favourites.
Kerry, despite enjoying the backing of a strong wind, found themselves in a spot of bother at half-time, the scoreboard reading 2-4 to 0-7 in favour of Cork.
The winners were full value for their three-point advantage, and could have been further ahead were it not for were five first-half wides – early frees drilled wide by Sean O’Donoghue and Brian Coakley among the standout misses.
All the more impressive was Cork’s first-half showing given it arrived against the backdrop of a scintillating Kerry start. The contest wasn’t but 43 seconds old when Kerry had two points on the board; Jack Savage split the posts direct from the throw-in and Briain Ó Seanacháin popped over in the ensuing play.
From there, though, Cork assumed control and their direct running through the centre of the Kingdom defence caused Kerry untold problems. Time and time again, Sean Powter, Sean White, Sean O’Donoghue and Ryan Harkin ran at Kerry from just beyond the ’45. Time and time again they found holes and scores.
Come the 19th minute, Cork had established a 2-4 to 0-4 advantage. Brian Coakley, set up by Michael Hurley and Harkin, slotted goal number one. Goal number two was similarly well-worked; Kevin Flahive knocked a Kerry kick-out into the path of Sean O’Donoghue, he offloaded to Powter who beat Eoghan O’Brien with a thumper.
Savage (two frees) and Eanna Ó Conchúir brought it back to three by the break and Jack O’Connor’s side could have been level but for a Kevin Flahive interception after Killian Spillane floated the ball across the squad in first-half stoppages.
Points from Savage and Spillane sandwiched a Sean O’Donoghue free early in the second-half and while Kerry did move in front through a fine Mark O’Connor goal on 38 minutes; Cork, through Michael Hurley and Peter Kelleher, never allowed the gap extend beyond two points. The lead again switched hands when White’s effort entering the final quarter billowed the opposition net.
Cork just about managed to hold onto it from there to the line.
Scorers for Cork: B Coakley (1-1, 0-1 free); S White, S Powter (1-0 each); R Harkin, M Hurley (0-2 each); S Sherlock (0-1 free), S O’Donoghue (0-1 free), C Dorgan, P Kelleher (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kerry: J Savage (0-5, 0-4 frees); M O’Connor (1-0); D Roche (0-3); J Spillane (0-2); B Ó Seanacháin, M Burns, E Ó Conchúir, T Brosnan (0-1 each).
CORK: A Casey (Kiskeam); M McSweeney (Newcestown), J Mullins (Éire Óg), D Quinn (St Finbarr’s); K Flahive (Douglas), S Cronin (Nemo Rangers), K Histon (Cobh); S White (Clonakilty), S O’Leary (Bantry Blues); S O’Donoghue (Inniscarra), S Powter (Douglas), R Harkin (Mallow); B Coakley (Carrigaline), P Kelleher (Kilmichael), M Hurley (Castlehaven).
Subs: S Sherlock (St Finbarr’s) for Powter (HT), D Ó Duinin (Cill Na Martra (46), C Dorgan (Ballincollig) for Coakley (50), C Kiely (Ballincollig) for Flahive (50, bc), E Lavers (Dohenys) for O’Leary (52)
KERRY: E O’Brien (Churchill); T O’Sullivan (Dingle), J Foley (Ballydonoghue), TL O’Sullivan (Dingle); M Flaherty (Dingle), B Ó Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht), G White (Dr Crokes); B O’Sullivan (Dingle), M O’Connor (Dingle); B Ó Seanacháin (Ballydonoghue), M Burns (Dr Crokes), E Ó Conchúir (An Ghaeltacht); D Roche (Glenflesk), K Spillane (Templenoe), J Savage (Kerins O’Rahillys).
Subs: G Horan (Austin Stacks) for Ó Seanacháin (HT), D Foran (St Senan’s) for O’Connor (41), C Coffey (Kerins O’Rahillys) for Ó Beaglaoich (43), J Kiely (Dr Crokes) for Ó Conchúir (48), T Brosnan (Dr Crokes) for Roche (55), F Clifford (Waterville) for White (56).
Referee: S Lonergan (Tipperary).
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