AN INCREDIBLE day at GAA headquarters brought unbridled joy to Cork Gaelic Football players, mentors and supporters while the senior final had the wider sporting public on the edge of their seats after an enthralling contest.
It was one of those days in Croke Park which brought out the best of Gaelic Football.
It’s hard to believe how far Cork football has come in such a short space of time, from the doom and gloom of springtime after our senior team relegated to Division 3. Less than six months later we are Minor and U20 All-Ireland champions.
One man who has followed the fortunes of both sides with keen interest is Cork legend Billy Morgan who was in Croke Park to witness an amazing victory for the Cork minors.
“Like most people I thought it was gone when Galway got that goal near the end. So under the circumstances it really was an extraordinary comeback and everyone deserves enormous credit. Galway really frustrated us in the opening half and they were very economical with possession.
“We trailed by three points at the break and we looked in serious trouble when we went four and five down.
“But the goal from Jack Cahalane gave us hope so it was edge of the seat stuff for that entire second half.
“I’ve been following the fortunes of this team all year and there is lots of talent there. After the manner of the U20 victory this is another great boost for Cork football.”
But Morgan has seen it all before and urges patience and caution with this new crop of young players.
“When you look at a player like Conor Corbett, who delivered 1-7 on the day, it was a brilliant performance by a captain. Unfortunately, in the past we have rushed players into senior teams when they are just not ready. Patience should be key.
“Darragh Cashman was another who really caught the eye and kicked a fantastic point before the break when the need was greatest. That takes character to back yourself on a big occasion like an All-Ireland final.
“Young Jack Cahalane is another promising player who is also a very good hurler. I’d be very familiar with Patrick Campbell from Nemo Rangers who has so much talent.
“Our midfield had their hands full with James McLaughlin who really was an inspirational player for Galway. But Jack Lawton and Kelan Scannell both had plenty of positive moments throughout the final and campaign in general.
“Michael O’Neill also bounced back after a very tough semi-final and Noel O’Leary was putting him forward as man-of-the-match on the way out afterwards.
“Now Conor Corbett probably deserves that for showing such composure with that goal in the end. We are also seeing how important the bench has become in the modern game and Ryan O’Donovan made a telling contribution while Hugh Murphy was very strong on the ball and steady.
“There were plenty of others who played very well and it has given everyone a huge lift.”
For the man who has given his life to Cork football the green shoots appearing at underage level are all positives as is the appointment of Conor Counihan in his new role as football project co-ordinator.
“Everyone was a bit down in the dumps when the senior team got relegated to Division 3.
“In fairness to everyone involved they bounced back with very good performances against Kerry, Dublin and Tyrone.
“We must go out in the league and send out our best team and try get promoted. A good league campaign always gives players confidence. But things are looking up now after the two underage All-Irelands.
“The victory of the U20 team was amazing considering they were 1-6 to nil down. The appointment of Conor Counihan has to applauded, is a very popular one and rightly so.”
ith his involvement in UCC Morgan is keen to keep an eye on the development of all these young players and rubbishes claims that Cork players aren’t getting a fair crack with the college.
With the criticism of UCC being that too many Kerry players dominate the teams. The former All-Ireland winning captain and manager gives a blunt assessment of that opinion and names off the Cork players from all the recent winning teams.
“When we won the 2011 Sigerson Cup we had 10 players on the field and in 2014 we had also 10 players (he names them all). I was only going through them recently and if their good enough they will be played.
“Simple as that. Maybe there was less Cork players last season but that can happen every so often. Hopefully, a number of the winning U17 team will be on the College fresher team in the coming year and all these Cork players will come through the College or inter-county system.”
Finally, there was the small matter of the Kerry v Dublin game which was an epic contest.
“There was a number of us from the 1989 team at a function on Saturday so that was nice. The senior final was a great game with an incredible atmosphere. Looking ahead to the replay, maybe Dublin have more scope for improvement and I would expect Jim Gavin to make a change of two.
“On the other side of the argument this young Kerry team will gain plenty of confidence from their display. They went in front but couldn’t really finish the job off.”