Cahalane helps Cork make it past Cavan and into under-21 football final
Third time lucky for full-back as Rebels hold their nerve at the end
Cork’s Brian O’Driscoll holds off the cahllenge of Michael Argue of Cavan during the All-Ireland under-21 football semi-final played at Tullamore. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
CORK 0-15 CAVAN 1-11
The All Ireland under-21 championship is usually about a journey gathering momentum. Damien Cahalane, the immensely promising and versatile Castlehaven youngster, testifies to that.
Saturday’s tussle with Cavan at Tullamore was Cahalane’s third at the penultimate stage of the competition, but crucially this one culminated in a Cork victory. A national decider is on the horizon. “At the start of every year you start out dreaming of playing in an All-Ireland final. It doesn’t happen a lot of years, they are hard to make and hard to get into,” he said.
“They are even harder to win as most of us know because we have never won one. The last two years in a row we were beaten in semi-finals. We came up here knowing that we had to set that straight.”
That is precisely what Cork did because they seized control of a fascinating battle in the third quarter with Brian Hurley and Mark Sugrue prominent. Four points in a row after half-time put Cork six clear and manager John Cleary admitted it was decisive. “We did well then. We won clean ball at midfield and we were able to let it in quickly. Our lads inside were sharp, Mark Sugrue especially, he kicked some great points. We were very grateful for every one of them in the end.”
An inevitable Cavan rally materialised featuring a Chris Conroy goal and they did claw back on to level terms, but Cork were icy cool in stoppage time. Dan MacEoin nailed a pressure free, then Enda Reilly missed one for Cavan from an awkward angle.
Three Ulster under-21 triumphs on the spin have failed to produce the All Ireland Cavan craves so badly, but measured manager Peter Reilly still reckons that the Breffni boys can make an impact at the highest level soon. “We hope that this three in a row will ultimately yield success at senior level. There is no guarantee. It is disappointing not to add an All-Ireland on to it, but that is not going to happen now.”
Having adopted a one match at a time policy Cork, however, are creeping closer to reaching their intended destination according to Cahalane. “Definitely it has been our overall objective to get to a final, but to be honest we have been taking it one task at a time. This was task four, task number five will be the All-Ireland final.”
CORK: D Hanrahan; C Dorman, D Cahalane (0-1, 45), A Cronin; B O’Driscoll (0-2),T Clancy, J Wall; S Kelly, I Maguire; A Cadogan (0-1), M Sugrue (0-3), J O'Rourke; D Mac Eoin (0-4, all frees), B Hurley (0-2), L Connolly (0-2). Subs: C Vaughan for Cadogan (57 mins), TJ Brosnan for Clancy (59 mins), J Burns for Maguire (60 mins).
CAVAN: C Gilsenan; J McLoughlin, K Clarke, C Brady; G Smith, D Sexton, F Flanagan; B Sankey, M Argue; T Mooney (0-1), C Conroy (1-0), J Brady (0-2, 0-1 free); E Reilly (0-3), P O’Connor (0-2), D McVitty (0-1). Subs: C Moynagh (0-1) for Sexton, P Graham for Mooney (both 37 mins), C Madden (0-1) for Reilly (48 mins), J Dillon for Conroy (57 mins), E Reilly for O’Connor (60 mins).
Referee: L Devanney (Mayo).