CORK U20 hurler Tommy O’Connell scored a sensational 1-10 in Portlaoise on Saturday.
Assuming the long-range free-taking duties for the first time in the campaign, the Midleton club man helped Cork to bounce back from a Munster final loss to Tipp to defeat Leinster champions, Kilkenny.
Not alone was O’Connell, who is U20 again next season, clinical from placed balls, he nabbed 1-2 from play and worked like a dog from the throw-in.
“It was a team performance and we’re delighted to be back in a final again.
“Everyone pulled their weight. Everyone just dug deep and we pushed on in the end," O’Connell said.
“We just backed each other and trusted each other and we came out the right side of it, so we’re happy out."
O’Connell admitted his team-mates were devasted after their one-point defeat to Tipperary in the Munster final and they will face Liam Cahill’s side again in the All-Ireland final.
“We were absolutely gutted after the Munster final, as any team would be,” O’Connell said.
“We just had a chat in the dressing room; we parked it and it doesn’t matter how we played in a Munster final, we’re focused on ourselves and we’ll go again.
“We got the heads right and pushed on and we’re back now, in another final, so that’s all we can look forward to,” he said.
The Cork number 12 said the group was frustrated with the tone of the commentary after the defeat at Semple Stadium, which suggested that the team lacked physical and mental toughness.
With a lot of rain falling at O’Moore Park, this game was a battle, with no quarter asked or given.
“Unreal for Cork. There are people all over the media saying bad things about this and that.
“People say we weren’t going well, but we just dug deep and won it out and we’re delighted to be back again,” the Midleton player said.
This will be the first All-Ireland U20 hurling final, with the grade having dropped a year, and Cork last won the U21 All-Ireland in 1998.
O’Connell said that his side doesn’t feel pressure and the players trust each other to perform on the big stage.
“We don’t really feel that pressure, either. We all trust each other in the dressing room and we’ll have a go,” he added.
Two years ago, Cork reached the U17 and minor, then U18, finals, winning one and losing one.