BRIAN TURNBULL summed it up perfectly at full-time.
“Semi-finals are for winning, nothing else.
"We didn’t care if it was one point or 10 points,” he observed as the cheers rang out at Croker for the minors on reaching a first All-Ireland final since 2007.
Turnbull, Douglas tyro and Cork’s most consistent forward across the Munster championship, was TG4 Man of the Match yesterday and few could quibble with his selection.
He finished with 13 points, and while only two were from play – the first and last incidentally – he was fouled for seven of the 11 frees he converted.
A total of 23 points was deservedly match-winning for the Rebels, but they made heavy weather of seeing off a game Dublin outfit.
Of course the dismissal of Robert Downey for a second yellow after 45 minutes turned what was a bit of a slog anyway into a real dogfight in the last quarter.
Still Cork repelled them effectively enough given the young Leesiders lacked a long-ball outlet up top, until a late second goal from the Dubs made a three-point game in the dying stages. Turnbull answered the call though, saving his best point of the 13 until the final minute to seal it 0-23 to 2-13.
“We knew that was a strong Dublin team,” said Turnbull, who had watched the U17 contingent on the minor panel defeat Boys in Blue in the inaugural All-Ireland final in that grade a week earlier. “There was no complacency. We knew we’d to work as hard as could for 60-plus minutes. We didn’t care what it looked like on TV as long as we won.
“I found it hard enough to be honest. I wasn’t clinical enough (from play) considering the supply of ball coming in. A lot of people did the work even if I’m delighted to get it (Man of the Match).”
Turnbull was right in that this was a team effort, even if it certainly wasn’t a display on a par with anything they managed in the province. Liam O’Shea had his moments up front, fouled for three of Turnbull’s frees, while Daire Connery and Brian Roche chipped in with 0-5 between them from play at midfield. Ger Millerick and Diarmuid Linehan got through a mountain of work and scored too.
Ger Collins made a wonder save in the first half, and the likes of Conor O’Callaghan, Eoin Roche and Sean O’Leary Hayes were all required to pull off essential tackles and blocks. Collectively though Cork weren’t as tight as they can be, hence a plethora of Dublin goal chances, including a missed penalty.
That’s an area that requires work by Denis Ring and his management. In mitigation the fussiness of the referee, which gave some soft calls on both sides, didn’t help the flow of the game. Indeed it ruined it.
The gap of five weeks since blitzing Clare was probably a factor in Cork’s nerves, as was the favourites tag and U17 commitments. The loss through injury of Munster final MVP Evan Sheehan blunted the attacking edge. His fitness will be critical against a highly-rated Galway on September 3.
The absence of Sheehan was keenly felt in the first half, as his pace and nose for goal are made for Jones Road. A goal for Cork in the opening 30 minutes would have lifted the crowd who were that bit subdued, which reflected the nature of the contest. Turnbull came closest, denied by a tackle when skipping towards the small square.
Dublin had the far better opportunities to raise a green flag initially. Hooks by O’Callaghan and Aaron Walsh-Barry were critical when the Rebels trailed 0-2 to 0-1 after six minutes, particularly as they then went on a scoring drive. The hard-working Linehan split the posts as Denis Ring’s side managed a six-point run to lead 0-7 to 0-2 on 15 minutes.
Connery struck a crisp effort, on the back of smart support play of Craig Hanafin and Sheehan’s replacement Brian Buckley, while Turnbull was causing wreck – hitting one from play and another after being fouled himself.
It could have been more, as Turnbull sliced three wide from play from the same angle to the right of the posts. Dublin then had another glorious goal chance, Collins pulled off that astonishing stop from point-blank range.
Turnbull was fouled for another couple of frees, while Millerick and Buckley scored from play. Still the inevitable Dublin goal arrived when Eoghan O’Neill stuck from close range, which kept them in it at the break: 0-11 to 1-4.
On the restart it looked like Cork would coast home, but to do so they needed that crowd-rousing goal, which they only fleetingly threatened to grab. Still, as Turnbull argued, semi-finals are for winning.
Galway also underperformed to a degree in defeating Kilkenny, and it should be a cracking final in that both teams are capable of exploding to life on the biggest stage.
Cork haven’t landed the minor All-Ireland since 2001, when John Gardiner, Fraggie Murphy and Setanta Ó hAilpín were to the fore, while the last final appearance ended in a loss to Tipp in ’07.
Ring’s charges are more than capable of bridging the 16-year gap in three weeks, but they’ve already made a significant mark by capturing a first Munster since 2008.