Cork U20s land All-Ireland crown after an astonishing comeback to destroy the Dubs and thrill the fans

Cork U20s land All-Ireland crown after an astonishing comeback to destroy the Dubs and thrill the fans
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Cork 3-16 Dublin 1-14

CORK are All-Ireland U20 football champions after one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Rebel football.

In front of an electrified crowd at Portlaoise, Keith Ricken's side came back from the brink after going 1-6 to no score behind. From there on Cork, thanks to their ability to create goal chances and take three in the first half, completely dominated the Dubs.

They outscored the Leinster kingpins 3-16 to 0-8 after the sluggish start. Astonishing stuff. 

Mark Cronin celebrates his goal. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Mark Cronin celebrates his goal. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

This was the Cork football we all love, direct, aggressive, confident and classy. The supporters who travelled up the road to back this gifted group and the hurlers, who defeated Kilkenny beforehand, got their reward but also played their part.

The atmosphere was as good as any at a Cork underage match in living memory. The roof was nearly lifted off the stand with the 'Rebels' chants.

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The scenes afterward were very emotional and rightly so. This was a first football All-Ireland for Cork since landing Sam Maguire in 2010 and suddenly the five-year plan to save the game on Leeside has been reduced to a five-month one, with the minors in an All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo next weekend.

There were heroes in every line. Captain Peter O'Driscoll, centre-back Seán Meehan and Maurice Shanley were teak-tough leaders in defence while goalkeeper Josh O'Keeffe recovered from an early error to excel between the posts. 

Brian Hartnett turns inside Dublin's Donal Ryan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Brian Hartnett turns inside Dublin's Donal Ryan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Brian Hartnett, who processed more possession than anyone, and Daniel O'Connell got a handle on the Dublin midfield, and in attack Cork showed why they were able to pick Kerry apart. Mark Cronin, Cathal O'Mahony and Damien Gore are as exciting an inside line as we've seen in a long time in Rebel red.

Cronin will no doubt be picked as the official Footballer of the Year in the grade given his sustained brilliance all championship. Gore ended up with 0-4 from play, three in the second half, while O'Mahony is as good a ball-winner up top as he is a shooter.

Blake Murphy nails a point. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Blake Murphy nails a point. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Blake Murphy nailed 1-2 and oozed class as he did in the Munster final, while subs Jack Murphy and Fionn Herlihy slotted over a point each and added real energy.

It took nine second-minutes for Cork to raise a flag, a Cronin free after a foul on Jack Murphy, who added another straight after and then Dub midfielder Peader Ó Cófaigh Byrne was black-carded with Cathal O'Mahony nailing the free. Cork were back in command and they never faltered from there, helped by a red card for Karl Lynch Bissett.  

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

However they got an incredible lift from pilfering their first goal, Cronin teeing up Blake Murphy to finish soccer-style which ignited the supporters. Dublin still looked dangerous when driving forward, especially with such a strong wind but Hartnett and O'Connell snaring a number of the Dubs' restarts made a telling difference. Murphy added an audacious curling point to his goal.

Murphy and Cronin were razor-sharp while O'Mahony and Gore were finding pockets of space and kicked a point apiece. Cronin raised the second green flag, a deadly finish at the near post, while Colm O'Callaghan scrambled the third goal at the second time of asking. 

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The 'Rebels' chants boomed from the stand and every Cork tackle or Dublin error was treated like a score.

It was 3-6 to 1-10 at the break and O'Connell's point in added time could easily have been a goal as he was one-on-one. By full-time it didn't matter

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