CONGRATS to the Cork minor footballers on a great win, what a sweet victory it was.
The Cork U20s came back from a hopeless position against Dublin to emerge victorious three weeks ago and it was similar in ways on Sunday for the Rebel minors.
The game looked gone from Cork when Galway’s Niall Cunningham blasted to the net to put Galway three points ahead with time running out. Cork had other ideas though with Conor Corbet taking the game to extra time. Cork then kicked on from here to win comfortably.
Corbett put in a Man of the Match performance and his development hasn’t come about by chance, it’s down to extra individual practice. It means he can turn and shoot off both feet.
No doubt many coaches, both from his club Clyda Rovers and county, have contributed massively but the willingness to put in the extra training took his game to another level.
Cork started very assured on the ball and with a clear game-plan: width and clever movement of the ball created space in front of the Galway full-back line. Michael O’Neill was coming deep, looping around and looking to deliver to Jack Cahalane and Corbett.
Things quickly unravelled. There is a fine line between being composed, recycling possession and being slow and ponderous. Cork’s movement stalled, and they became easy to defend against.
It was interesting to see the Cork forwards early on defend aggressively looking to get immediate pressure on the Galway backs. In contrast, Galway appeared content to delay the Cork attack rather than looking for turnovers high up. This approach by Galway helped them keep a more compact defence and limited the space for Cork.
When Cork did win possession near the Galway goal, they were denied by some excellent block-downs, a skill we see less and less in the modern game. As well as deflating a forward, this type of turnover can immediately give energy to the defending team.
Galway dictated matters for the remainder of the half. Cork were losing too many kick-outs also and combined with the errors in possession Galway could counter-attack.
In typical Galway style, possession was transitioned quickly using the kick-pass into their dynamic full-forward line. Number 14 Tomo Culhane led the way, kicking some excellent points and is a future senior star. Daniel Cox and Nathan Grainger also caused endless problems with their willingness to come wide, turn and take on their men.
The second half started in a similar pattern but Cork got a timely boost with Cahalane’s goal. Ironically this goal came from a Cork-kick out that was long and central. This score was hugely important as it reduced Galway’s lead to a point and appeared to make this young group believe again. Two great points from Daragh Cashman and Conor Corbett quickly followed and in a matter of minutes, Cork were in the lead.
Cashman scored two excellent points, one from either side again highlighting the importance of being able to kick accurately off both feet.
Galway’s attack was still a handful. A top player needs good skills and decision-making but you just cannot beat pace either. It’s just so hard to defend against.
Daniel Cox seared through score Galway’s first goal and this was then followed up by substitute Niall Cunningham’s blasting the ball to the Cork net in injury time. Thankfully Cork and Corbett immediately responded. This was another Cork team that was not going to be beaten.
Once Ryan O’Donovan scored Cork’s third goal in the opening minutes of extra time, the belief and energy drained from Galway. Cork dominated the kick-out and with extra space and time on the ball, the forwards took full advantage.
This Cork team has been on some journey this summer and their performances again highlights the importance of belief to a team individually and collectively. Rattled after their heavy defeat to Kerry, this team were perhaps fortunate to defeat Clare. Thankfully they got the right result and kicked on from there.
You could see after the final whistle what it meant to the players and management. It’s so hard to win All-Irelands as the record books show so those initial scenes of celebration are moments to be treasured.
Well done to Bobbie O'Dwyer and his management team. Huge time and effort has gone into the development of those players since 2014. Cork now the All-Ireland champions at U20 and minor level. Not a bad start to the five-year plan!
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