The Paudie Kissane column: Cork U20s showed character beyond their years

The Paudie Kissane column: Cork U20s showed character beyond their years
Damien Gore shoots past Dublin's Darren Maher for one of his four points. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE FIRST thing that comes to mind when thinking of the Cork U20 footballers is what a great championship they just won.

Character shown in abundance in all three big games defeating Kerry, Tyrone, and Dublin.

To come from nine points down in an All-Ireland final to comfortably win by eight... unheard of. This seemed very unlikely as in the opening 10 minutes Dublin punished Cork with 1-6. It was a fortuitous goal from Ciarán Archer but Dublin did convert some excellent points with the aid of the strong wind.

I felt Cork needed to target the Dublin kick-out but in that first quarter, it was in fact Dublin’s zonal set-up which was causing wreak on the Cork restarts with Dublin winning five from seven.

It didn’t matter whether goalkeeper Josh O’Keefe went long, wide or short. Brian Harnett was dropping deep from midfield as an extra option but it didn’t matter. There was nervousness in the backs, slow on the breaks, waiting for the ball.

Wing-back Peter O’Driscoll was dropping back to protect the space around the ‘D’ but from kick-outs had to go elsewhere and Cork were vulnerable once possession was lost.

Dublin looked assured, hungry and you feared for Cork. Dublin were more physical, played at a higher pace with Cork under pressure on the ball resulting in soft turnovers.

It was like Dublin knew they were lucky last week with an average performance against Galway and were really focused this time.

In defence, Dublin had number seven Sean Lambe as an extra defender. They looked very solid with this extra cover. As the half wore on though this defence was exposed as they conceded soft goals due to players dropping intensity or just caught ball-watching.

The two crucial moments were Cork’s second goal and the period right before half time. Mark Cronin was leading from the front when setting up Blake Murphy for a wonderful volley but it was not until the second goal from Cronin that Cork actually settled. Dublin were rattled.

Dublin initially got off their kick-outs fast, mainly short and wide, not giving Cork time to get organised. Things changed after the concession of that second goal. Suddenly Dublin looked lethargic.

They went long for the first time and it was three Rebels attacking one Dublin player. Cork scored their third goal from here when the excellent Brian Hartnett set up Colm O’Callaghan with a great run through the middle of the Dublin defence. The energy and belief surged through the team and crowd in unison.

Colm O'Callaghan after his goal. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Colm O'Callaghan after his goal. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The Cork midfield grew into the game as both players were losing their individual battles in the early stages. Hartnett is so composed on the ball and very effective doing the simple things really well. Has a particular knack of side-stepping his way out of trouble.

Daniel O’Connell his partner was effective too with some massive plays, winning primary possession, tackling hard and bursting through for a great score just before half time.

A midfield partnership of two young lads that never played underage for Cork, which highlights again the importance of the late developer. They can be forgotten sometimes in Cork just due to the size of the county

The second crucial moment was just before half time when Cork scored two points to go in at the break leading by the two. It was an amazing turnaround and Cork got some reception from the supporters. Games are never won in 30 minutes but you just got the feeling that this was going to be Cork’s day.

Dublin did create chances early in the second half, but apart from Brian O’Leary’s point, were nervous. Players were snatching at shots and the link-up play evident in the first quarter was gone.

Cork gave them a helping hand with some soft turnovers but the difference now was Cork were collectively working harder and were regaining possession quickly. When Dublin advanced the defence was protecting the central channel better.

Cork substitutes again made an impact with Jack Murphy scoring an excellent point assisted by Cathal O’Mahony, which followed another excellent Mark Cronin free. The gap was out to two points again.

Cathal O'Mahony is tackled by Dublin's Daire Newcombe. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cathal O'Mahony is tackled by Dublin's Daire Newcombe. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Dublin midfielder Peader Ó Cófaigh Byrne received a black-card and Cork drove on from here turning the tide on the kick-outs snatching five of Dublin’s eight long kick-outs in the second half while at the other end Cork used the short kick-out effectively. Credit to the full-back line and keeper for turning things around.

Damien Gore came to the fore in attack scoring three points in a row to increase Cork’s lead to six points. It was this overall scoring threat, which made it harder to shut Cork down. They were never over-reliant on one forward.

Every player contributed with Cork having leaders all over the field. Well done to players and management. As the records show, All-Irelands are hard to win and that was most certainly a sweet one.

Cork captain Peter O'Driscoll with Marc Sheahan, vice chairman County board; Tracey Kenedy, chairperson and Kevin O'Donovan, CEO. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork captain Peter O'Driscoll with Marc Sheahan, vice chairman County board; Tracey Kenedy, chairperson and Kevin O'Donovan, CEO. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

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