Cork see off Monaghan to set up final clash with Mayo

Rebels put poor recent semi-final record behind them in Tullamore

Cork 2-15 Monaghan 1-16

There is a neat piece of symmetry at play in the All-Ireland U-21 championship where Cork, struggling at senior level and recently relegated in the Allianz league, have made it through to Saturday week’s final.

A year ago, Tyrone’s Under-21s made the exact same trek on the back of relegation from Division 1 for their seniors and duly took the underage title, in the process re-energising their senior team who enjoyed a lengthy Championship campaign.

It’s a tale of redemption that beleaguered Cork supporters can cling to as they eye up the coming weeks and months with a little more optimism now.

Michael Hurley, man of the match in Tullamore on Saturday afternoon with three points, admitted that it has been a difficult period in the county and noted pointedly those who have been keen to criticise.

“I’m absolutely over the moon, especially for Cork football because in the past year or two Cork has come in for a lot of criticism,” said Hurley. “Some of it should have been given, some of it not. So hopefully this will give Cork football a good boost for the rest of the year.

“There is a few of us involved with the seniors so we’d know what is going on, we’d know what is being said and what is not being said.

“I suppose some of it is right, they are not going as well as they should be. They have a lot more potential but I do think a lot the criticism shouldn’t be said, it’s unwarranted. Hopefully this will give everyone a boost anyway.”

The Munster Under-21 champions met a Monaghan side chasing a first ever All-Ireland final appearance though the Farney belied their underdogs tag with a strong display. Barry McGinn tallied 1-6 and 1-5 in the first-half alone.

Goals from senior forward Peter Kelleher and Ryan Harkin helped Cork to a 2-7 to 1-9 half-time lead though and they led throughout a tense second-half to set up a final against Mayo.

“We scored 2-15 from play which is very pleasing,” continued Hurley. “I suppose if you’re Mayo, you’re looking at that thinking ‘we can’t do much about that’. But we won’t get over confident either.”

Cork are the bookies' favourites to take the title but boss Sean Hayes grimaced at that prediction.

“Mayo would be the favourites and they beat Dublin who would have been the second favourites,” claimed Hayes. “They are a very good team. I only saw bits of their game. I will have to sit down and watch it again but they are a very good team.”

Hayes admitted Cork’s poor record in recent semi-finals played on their mind having lost three of their previous four.

“It did because two years ago we lost to Roscommon at this stage and I was involved,” he said. “Last year we were beaten by Tipperary by a point in the Munster final and Tipp went on to reach the All-Ireland final.”

Monaghan started strongly with McGinn on the rampage up front. County seniors Conor McCarthy and Ryan McAnespie were among the scorers too but they needed goals late on as they chased the game and couldn’t grab one.

Cork: A Casey; M McSweeney, J Mullins, D Quinn; K Flahive, S Cronin, K Histon; S White, S O'Leary; S O'Donoghue (0-4), S Powter (0-3), R Harkin (1-1); B Coakley (0-2), P Kelleher (1-0), M Hurley (0-3).Subs: E Lavers for O'Leary (h/t), R O'Toole (0-1) for Quinn (40 mins), S Sherlock (0-1) for Coakley (bc, 45 mins), D O Duinnin for Harkin (55 mins), C Dorgan for Powter (62 mins).

Monaghan: C Forde (0-1, 1f); B Kerr, M Murnaghan, K Loughran; D Ward (0-1), J Mealiff, N Rooney; N Loughman, A Lynch; R McAnespie (0-1), B McGinn (1-6, two frees), D Meegan (0-1); F McMahon (0-3), C McCarthy (0-3), A Treanor.Subs: F Maguire for Treanor (17 mins), A Curran for Lynch (35 mins), B McBennett for McMahon (39 mins).

Referee: J Hickey (Carlow).