CORK’S status as All-Ireland junior football market leaders was reinforced in Semple Stadium on Saturday when they collected a fourth title in seven years.
But it was a great struggle before the silverware was hoisted by captain Cathrach Keane, who made amends for missing out on the final win two years ago through injury.
Kildare, who desperately sought the county’s first crown in this grade, proved stubborn opponents to shake-off and made much of the running in the early stages as they produced enterprising football. Cork looked to have it secured in normal time when Daniel O’Donovan banged over a brilliant 45 from out on the left wing yet Kildare’s resilience surfaced as they fashioned the opportunity for Tommy Moolick to launch over the levelling point.
In extra-time scores proved a scarce commodity and while the energy reserves on both sides were sapped, the wretched shooting proved a dominant trait throughout the game. Cork amassed 19 wides over the 80 plus minutes while Kildare were off the mark on 14 occasions.
After Mark Fitzharris had put Kildare into a 0-13 to 1-9 lead in the 67th minute, Cork tied the match up courtesy of the impressive Liam Shorten. And then in the second-half of extra time, Kevin Hallissey stepped up to land the defining scores of this encounter.
A member of last year’s county minor side that reached the All-Ireland final, Hallissey had been heavily involved in Cork’s attacking play from the off and in the 76th minute, he blasting over a shot under pressure before curling over a splendid score from the wing four minutes later.
In the final analysis the 0-9 haul that Hallissey and Shorten combined to post was instrumental in Cork’s success.
Cork’s victory owed a huge amount to their defence as well who improved immeasurably as the game progressed. They looked uncomfortable in the opening half as Kildare rampaged forward and after the interval, the Lilywhites stretched their lead to 0-10 to 1-3 by the 37th minute.
However the fact they only registered three further points over the remaining 43 minutes of play was a testament to the greater discipline and covering of the Cork defence.
Corner-back Kevin Harrington was exceptional in this regard as he read the game brilliantly and frequently cut out Kildare’s probing attacks. The impact of the Bantry Blues man was needed to steady the full-back line as Cork number three Eoin O’Mahony was forced to limp off with a leg injury. The experience of Enda Wiseman and the assured handling of Tom O’Connor were other vital facets in Cork’s performance while wing-back Sean Kiely grew in stature as he started to raid forward from his defensive berth.
Defeat was a sickening experience for Kildare after they had produced some superb football in the early exchanges. After Cork had initially made the brighter start to go 0-2 to 0-0 ahead by the ninth minute, Kildare took over with midfielders Paddy Dunne and Eoin Carew getting on top.
Cork had no answer to the movement and creativity of Kildare’s attack. Centre-forward Conor Murphy was the star man during this phase of play as his adventurous shooting yielded a series of points while corner-forward Darroch Mulhall also looked dangerous.
By the 23rd minute, Kildare lead 0-7 to 0-2 but critically Cork bounced back before the break. Andrew O’Brien struck a precise low shot to the net in the 28th minute after Richard O’Sullivan had made a great run forward to create the chance and Andrew O’Sullivan fisted over a point a minute later. That rally meant Cork only trailed by a point at the break and they grew in confidence thereafter to seal another junior triumph.
Scorers for Cork: K Hallissey 0-5 (1f), L Shorten 0-4 (2fs), A O’Brien 1-0, D O’Donovan (1 45), A O’Sullivan, S Kiely 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kildare: C Murphy 0-4 (1f), D Mulhall 0-3, C Kelly 0-2, T Moolick, T Archibald, R Walsh, M Fitzharris 0-1 each.
Subs for Cork: B Daly for O’Mahony (inj. 37), M Dilworth for Keane (43), P Gayer for AJ O’Connor (51), Keane for Dilworth (70), P Daly for Clancy (73), AJ O’Connor for O’Sullivan (77).
Subs for Kildare: J Comerford for Kelly (50), J Lambe for Meagher (50), E Hyland for Mulhall (55), M Fitzharris for Carew (59), C Bolton for Moolick (60), Meagher for Lambe (60), Carew for Murphy (70), Mulhall for Campbell (77), D Barker for Doyle (77).
Referee: D O’Mahony (Tipperary)
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