Cork’s recent run of poor results at the semi-final stage of the All-Ireland U21 football championship had weighed heavily on the mind of manager Sean Hayes coming into Tullamore.
Since the county’s 2009 All-Ireland success, three of their next four semi-final appearances had ended in defeat.
Hayes was anxious this latest crop would not become another statistic in Cork’s recurring failure at the second last hurdle.
“It did [play on my mind] because two years ago we lost to Roscommon and I was involved. Last year, we were beaten by Tipperary by a point in the Munster final, and they went on to reach the All-Ireland final. We have been there or thereabouts and lots of these fellas have been involved. It is a huge achievement to get to the final,” said the manager after the win over Monaghan.
“It is great for Cork to be in a final. It is definitely great for this team because we have been at it for three years.” Complacency had proven Cork’s downfall at this juncture two years ago but Hayes ensured there was to be no repeat.
“We had seen Monaghan in videos. We knew the way they set-up. We were expecting [the blanket defence] and we tried to build ourselves so we could face into that. They were hard, they were tough and they carried the ball well. Our fellas were ready for that. They positioned themselves well and curtailed Monaghan, to a degree.
“It was a very good game. I think we deserved to win in the end.”
Crucial to the victory was the number of Cork contributors on the scoreboard, eight, and their entire 2-15 tally arriving from play.
“Our biggest disappointment was missing a couple of frees that could have put us out the gap. Fellas scoring from play is what it is all about and if fellas can do that, they’ll improve.
“The job, really, is to try and win the final, not just get into it, so we have a lot of work to do in the next two weeks. Mayo would be the favourites, and they are after beating Dublin who would have been the second favourites.
“They are a very good team.”
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