DEFEAT in an All-Ireland final is a very bitter pill to swallow but the Cork minor hurlers did the county proud at Croke Park yesterday.
The young Rebels lost a cracker to Galway, 2-17 to 2-15, with a controversial decision over a square ball and the large crowd from the west - who watched the Tribe complete a double - making all the difference.
Goals from Evan Sheehan and Brian Turnbull, who finished with 1-7 despite a hamstring injury, put Denis Ring's charges in the driving seat at half-time. However once Galway, led by Jack Canning, Joe's nephew, in attack, gained the initiative Cork couldn't reel them in.
It meant the Leesiders couldn't bridge the gap to the last minor All-Ireland in 2001, though eight of the 24-man panel yesterday had at least won an U17 All-Ireland last month. The grade now drops to U17 from U18 from next year, with John Considine tipped to replace Ring as manager.
That will be decided in the coming weeks, but Cork County Board chairman, Ger Lane, had nothing but praise for the effort that the players and the management had put in on this occasion.
It had been a lengthy campaign, six games, four wins, a draw and a loss and, despite the loss in Croke Park, he believed that the positives had outweighed the negatives.
“It's hugely disappointing, to be honest but, look, we had a great year with those lads, a fantastic Munster campaign which resulted in us regaining that title.
“The games against Tipperary, in particular, were something else but we knew coming up here today that we were up against it.
“We had seen them against Kilkenny but on the day we might have grievances about a few things but at the end of it they scored more and they are the All-Ireland champions."
Lane acknowledged that the long wait for All-Ireland success in the grade had created its own bit of pressure.
“That might have been a factor but I thought that our players gave everything today. Maybe a few didn't perform to their best levels but that's the way life is. It's a huge occasion for young players and at the end of the day we have no complaints.
“A few decisions might have gone against us but that's the way it was, Galway won the match and we just have to move on. I think that there are plenty of Cork players there for the future."
The disallowing of a Cork goal in the second-half was a huge talking point afer the game and Lane was a bit baffled by it.
“It appeared that the umpire put up the flag, the referee had taken out his book to enter the score but suddenly the linesman had drawn his attention.
“I spoke to the linesman afterwards and he said it wasn't his decision it was the ref's decision and we cannot change that now.
“We had a very talented team that just lost an All-Ireland but I firmly believe that a good few of them will wear the jersey in the future at senior level.
“Maybe some today did not perform to the peak of their powers but you'd have to single out young Turnbull there in attack, he was excellent even though he was slightly injured coming in.
“Evan Sheehan too in the first-half showed his prowess so there are plenty of good players coming through."