Cork complete underage double as Galway suffer another minor final reverse
Victory mapped Cork’s season as slow start gives way to strong finish after extra-time
Cork players celebrate after their victory over Galway in the All-Ireland minor football final at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Cork 3-20 Galway 3-14
We can presume that Cork are mightily grateful to whoever it was that decided to rip up the script and devise a new Munster minor championship structure.
Put simply, a new format for 2019 allowed for Cork to play three provincial games, lose twice to Kerry, and still end winning the All-Ireland a few months later.
There’s no suggestion the young Rebels didn’t deserve it – they scored 10 goals in three All-Ireland series games after all – it’s more a question of how far they might have gone in previous years if running into brilliant Kerry teams in Munster semi-finals hadn’t consistently ended their campaigns.
Losing by 16 points to Kerry last May wasn’t the end of the line for Cork then, though it still took an incredible show of character to win the All-Ireland.
Cork’s final performance summed up their hotchpotch of a summer; initially poor, followed by steady improvement and then a thrilling climax.
They trailed by three points deep into stoppage time following a Niall Cunningham goal for Galway when they won back possession, worked the ball up to captain Conor Corbett and breathed out as he found the net.
That forced extra-time at 2-13 apiece and suited a physically stronger Cork side that opened up Galway for 1-3 without reply at the beginning of the additional period, deciding the contest.
“These lads shipped a fair shellacking the first day down in Cork in the first round of the championship,” said Cork manager Bobbie O’Dwyer. “The resilience they showed the following week then to go up and play a very good Clare team above in Ennis, after losing a game by 16 points, it showed absolutely tremendous character.
“We knew that character was in the team, we’ve been involved with them since they were under-14. We’ve had four years on the go with them and that’s the one thing that can never be questioned about them, their character.”
Aside form Cork’s greater physicality, O’Dwyer felt they took advantage of Galway’s fatigue in extra-time to turn the screw so decisively, outscoring them by 1-7 to 1-1 in total in the extra 20 minutes.
“The way Galway set up defensively, they have to work incredibly hard,” explained O’Dwyer. “We figured that their legs would have to give close to the end. We just got a couple of kickers and a couple of scorers in closer to the goal and got the ball in that little bit quicker.”
The scores duly followed and, later, the plaudits. It’s an 11th minor title for Cork, their first since 2000, and means that the county now possesses both the minor and under-20 crowns.
It will take some while for Galway to come to terms with the defeat. They also lost to Kerry in the 2018 final and leading scorer Tomo Culhane, goalkeeper Donie Halleran, Cian Hernon, Daniel Cox and Niall Cunningham all experienced that to some degree, though this was significantly worse, given the circumstances.
Culhane and Cox had been excellent initially, helping the beaten Connacht finalists to power four points clear at one stage in the first half and they were 0-8 to 0-5 ahead at half-time.
But aided by Michael O’Neill, Corbett, Darragh Cashman and goalscorer Jack Cahalane, Cork edged the second half and the game was level on six different occasions.
It was tough to call a winner but it looked like Galway had found their very own Séamus Darby when Cunningham slalomed through the Cork defence and rifled in a 63rd-minute goal. Only for Corbett to cancel it out in moments.
Afterwards, Galway manager Donal Ó Fátharta gave us a glimpse into his broken dressingroom.
“The boys are in there and they are numb. Can’t move, a lot of them,” said Ó Fátharta. “They can’t believe it. They were there, it was almost there for them.”
With the minor age grade lowered from under-18 to under-17, some of the players competing on both teams were just 16.
“I spoke with them on the pitch and it is going to be a difficult one for them to take,” said Ó Fátharta. “We spoke to them about that and about the need for them to mind each other and we will be as positive as we can for the next while.”
CORK: C O’Leary; D Peet, N Lordan, J O’Shea; D Cashman (0-2), D Linehan, A Walsh Murphy; K Scannell, J Lawton; H Murphy, P Campbell (0-1), E Nash; M O’Neill (0-6, three frees), J Cahalane (1-1), C Corbett (1-7).
Subs: S Andrews for Peet (35 mins), N Gough for O’Shea (46), L Murphy (0-1) for Nash (51), R O’Donovan (1-2) for Cahalane (60). T O Donoghue for Walsh Murphy (69), Cahalane for Campbell (76), Nash for Scannell (78).
GALWAY: D Halleran; J McGrath, R King, L Tevnan; C Hernon, E Fiorentini, K O’Neill; J McLaughlin, D O’Flaherty; E Nolan, W Seoige, D Brady; N Grainger (0-2), T Culhane (0-10, seven frees), D Cox (1-2).
Subs: C Gallagher for O’Flaherty (52 mins), N Cunningham (2-0) for Grainger (56), D Kennedy for Nolan (56), J Webb for Hernon (57). M Colleran for Brady (65), A Naughton for Cox (77), D McNulty for O’Neill (77).
Referee: N Mooney (Cavan).