Farrell strike kills off Galway challenge

CORK’s intermediate hurlers maintained the season theme of winning with plenty to spare in Saturday’s All-Ireland IHC semi-final in Portlaoise.

A 16-point winning margin expresses vividly the majesty of Cork’s hurling, but what made this success most noteworthy was how well they recovered from a turbulent first-half. The first quarter unfolded like a procession, Cork chalking up nine points and only shipping one at the other end to hold a convincing lead. Yet by half-time Galway, emboldened by some astute positional switches, had retrieved that eight point deficit and moved ahead by one, 1-7 to 0-9. It marked a stunning turnaround and Cork entered the interval under a cloud of uncertainty, with their dressing-room containing plenty harsh words at the break.

“They were told a few home truths at half-time”, revealed Cork boss Johnny Keane afterwards. “They were showboating and they weren’t winning the dirty ball. They’re fierce honest lads and they admitted they were hiding. We were very concerned at half-time as a lot of our players seemed tired. But they were all outstanding in the second-half.”

The second-half initially unfolded in a tight fashion and by the 43rd minute it was delicately poised as Cork clung grimly to a 0-12 to 1-8 lead. A minute later Midleton youngster Luke Farrell zipped through the Galway defence and deftly scooped the ball to the net. That strike burst the dam, with Cork rattling off 1-11 for the remainder of the match and conceding a paltry two points.

It was a period where Cork exhibited fully the array of attacking riches at their disposal. Farrell again underlined his fabulous potential as the 19 year-old ripped apart the Galway defence with searing, direct runs and neat point-taking. Centre-forward Mark O’Sullivan was full of honest endeavour and provided a great focal point for the Cork attack. Despite playing a club championship game the previous night, O’Sullivan and Dripsey club mate John Carey were both full of energy and O’Sullivan capped off his evening’s work when smashing to the net in the 63rd minute after a clever pass by substitute Brian Lawton.

As the match wore on Cork’s defence became impregnable. Goalkeeper Anthony Nash was assured in his handling and also beat out two rasping goal efforts from close-range frees. Outside him Darragh McSweeney, Billy Murphy and Ross Cashman fronted a defensive unit that improved immeasurably after that nervy second quarter. The strength-in-depth of this Cork panel was illustrated perfectly in the 0-5 scoring input from the bench, with Eamonn Collins and Lawton producing sparkling cameos.

For Galway the match wound up as a grave disappointment. The second-half proved a torrid affair for them which was all the more galling considering how they had recovered from their wretched start. Making their seasonal competitive bow, getting to the pitch of the game was always going to be difficult early on and it proved thus as they trailed 0-9 to 0-1 after the opening quarter. But former Galway senior Tony Óg Regan thrived when moved to midfield and centre-back Andrew Keary began to lord it in defence.

Up front full-forward Tom Tierney was flawless from frees and Donal O’Reilly impacted from open play to bring Galway back into contention. Then, on the stroke of half-time, their challenge received a massive tonic when Martin Kelly bundled a shot to the net after Eamon Hyland initial blast had been blocked by Nash. Leading 1-7 to 0-9 they were filled with confidence entering the second-half, but found Cork’s defence harder to break down. Once Cork started to string together the scores, Galway’s morale began to sag and they didn’t have the adequate personnel to spring from the bench.

Fork Cork boss Johnny Keane, the next step now is an All-Ireland final date with Kilkenny on August 29.

“Someone has to stop them winning all these All-Ireland’s. Hopefully it will be us”, said Keane.

Cork scorers: Mark O’Sullivan 1-5, L Farrell 1-4, L Desmond 0-5 (0-3f, 0-1 ‘65), L McLoughlin, E Collins 0-2 each, B Ring, E Dillon, A Mannix (0-1f), B Lawton, W Egan 0-1 each.

Galway: T Tierney 0-6 (0-5f), M Kelly 1-1, D O’Reilly 0-2, M Lydon 0-1.

CORK: A Nash; B Coleman, D McSweeney, B Murphy; J Carey, R Cashman, J Jordan; E Dillon, L Desmond; R Dwyer, Mark O’Sullivan, L McLoughlin; Maurice O’Sullivan, L Farrell, B Ring.

Subs: E Collins for Maurice O’Sullivan (35), A Mannix for Ring (38), J O’Leary for Dwyer (46), B Lawton for Desmond (53), W Egan for McLoughlin (60).

GALWAY: D Howe; P Shiel, B Lohan, P Power; D Dunne, A Keary, M Broderick; B Daly, D McEvoy; M Lydon, T Óg Regan, JP O’Connell; D O’Reilly, T Tierney, E Hyland.

Subs: M Kelly for McEvoy (28), T Madden for Lydon (41), B Lucas for Daly (50), S Duane for JP O’Connell (54).

Referee: J O’Mahoney (Limerick).

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