Cork 1-8 Kerry 1-7
BRIAN HURLEY, not for the first time or indeed the last, came to Cork’s rescue to snatch the 2010 Munster minor football championship title out of Kerry’s grasp in a dramatic climax in Killarney.
There were just three minutes of regulation time remaining, with Cork trailing by a couple of points, when two big players stood up to be counted and turn the contest the visitors’ way.
Captain Daniel Fitzgerald had been plagued with injury all-season and had yet to make an appearance in the famous red jersey until manager Brian Cuthbert plucked him from the bench midway through the second half.
His introduction played a major role in Cork’s goal as Fitzgerald (below) won a good ball in the air and did even better to off-load to Hurley.
The Castlehaven player initially feinted to unleash a trademark bomb from a tight angle, but, after seeing Kerry keeper Padraic McCarthy dive, Hurley produced a super left-footed chip which dropped to the net.
It was a brilliant finish, combining self-belief, a cool head and top-ranked skills to be worthy of winning any match.
Cork had to soak up a lot of pressure in the closing minutes with the home followers non-too-happy with Tipperary referee Kevin O’Brien for awarding a free out with Kerry roaring for a free-in or more.
Yet, that hectic climax couldn’t mask an otherwise ordinary game, which was spoiled by a strong wind with Kerry having its first use from the start.
Scoring from play was problematic for Cork, who relied heavily on Hurley’s consistency from frees to be just one adrift at the break after Kerry skipper James Walsh pointed magnificently for 0-4 to 0-3.
A second Haven player, Damien Cahalane, was proving just as crucial at the other end, dominating at full-back against Kerry dangerman Gavin O’Grady, who ran riot against Limerick in the semi-final.
In fairness, Kerry’s cause wasn’t helped by the unfortunate injury suffered by their best man-maker Pa Kilkenny after only six minutes and his absence was sorely felt.
Cork, though, were showing up well in the other areas, too, like Tom Clancy at centre-back, Jamie Burns and John O’Rourke at midfield and Kevin Hallissey up front.
But, they were rocked by a Kerry goal eight minutes into the second half, when Mark Reen obliged and Cork were now under the cosh.
Still, they kept chipping away at Kerry’s lead, thanks in the main to Hurley, who finished with 1-6, and goalkeeper David Hanrahan came to the rescue as well at an important time, denying their leading marksman Eanna O’Connor.
The final whistle sounded like sweet music to Cork and Cuthbert in particular.
“It was a great way to win it,” he remarked. “We got the break and Brian’s finish was unbelievable. I thought our defence was very good as well and Damien did a great job for us,” Cuthbert added.
Cork would go on to reach the All-Ireland, but fell short in a cracking clash with Tyrone.
Interestingly, George Durrant featured at midfield for Kerry and the following year he transferred to Ballincollig, having moved to Cork and pushed on to land a county title in 2014, picking up a Man of the Match award after the victory over Carbery Rangers.
Wing-back Jamie Wall is now a well-known hurling coach, a Fitzgibbon Cup winner with Mary I.
Cahalane, Hurley, Tom Clancy, Sam Ryan, Alan Cronin and John O’Rourke all progressed to feature for Cork in senior championship.
Scorers for Cork: B Hurley 1-6 (0-4 f), K Hallissey 0-1, K Sheehan 0-1f
Kerry: M Reen 1-1, E O’Connor 0-4 (0-2 f), G O’Grady and J Walsh 0-1 each.
CORK: D Hanrahan; K Fulignati, D Cahalane, D Murphy; J Wall, T Clancy, S Ryan; J Burns, J O’Rourke; K Hallissey, M Sugrue, A Cronin; S Duggan, K Sheehan, B Hurley.
Subs: D Fitzgerald for Ryan 44, D MacEoin for Duggan and S O’Mahony for Sugrue 50.
KERRY: P McCarthy; P Kilkenny, D Culhane, F McNamara; J Walsh, L Bastible, J Hickson; D Somers, G Durrant; M Reen, T Hickey, G O’Leary; B Dwyer, G O’Grady, E O’Connor.
Subs: A Thompson for Kilkenny injured 6, C O’Leary for Durrant 25, T Morley for Hickey 54.
Referee: K O’Brien (Tipperary)