MANAGER Sean Hayes was at a loss to explain the Cork U21's wretched display in a 16-point trouncing by their near neighbours in the Munster final.
The final scoreline of 2-16 to 0-6 told the sorry tale at Páirc Uí Rinn, as a star-studded Kerry outfit, drawn from a crop that won three in a row of minor All-Irelands, bridged a 20-year gap to the county's last U21 win on Leeside.
“I’m very disappointed with the performance because we’re better than that. I can’t put a finger right now on why we were so poor. Fellows had the right attitude. The build-up was good, but from the minute the ball was thrown in, we flopped. Whether it was fear or nerves, I don’t know. I suppose we’ll have to analyse it in one sense.
“It’s very disappointing to give a performance like that in a Munster final,” he said.
Even had Michael Hurley’s rocket ended in the back of the net after just two minutes, following Kerry’s early couple of points, the result would still have been the same. Cork had a number of players who'd featured in last year's U21 team that lost the All-Ireland final to Mayo, but they simply had no answer to the Kingdom.
“We would have taken that gladly. It would have put a better look on the score line," said Hayes. Overall, we gave away the ball stupidly far too often, especially in the first-half. The stats were frightening.
“We didn’t really improve in the second-half either and I don’t have a genuine reason as to why we played so poorly. I am very disappointed for the lads as well. It’s tough on young fellows at 21 to give a performance like that on such a big stage. Hopefully they will come out the other side.”
Cork could only muster one point from play but Hayes was quick to look at the bigger picture.
“Everything was wrong. I’d say there are worse stats than that. Kerry are a very good team, but I thought we left them play too easily,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Kerry counterpart, Jack O’Connor, was naturally in a different frame of mind after his side’s impressive display.
“It was all about the work-rate. They work unselfishly for each other and nobody cares who gets the credit once we get over the line. We’ve a good bench and we used them all tonight. That’s the reason we finished with 13 after the late black cards.
“It doesn’t really matter who starts because the way the game has gone it’s almost as important to finish with a strong team on the pitch. We’ve a good panel and it’s just a case of keeping the lads ticking over for the All-Ireland semi-final against either Galway or Sligo in a few weeks,” he said.
O’Connor coached the first two of the three All-Ireland minor titles in-a-row and knows all the obvious class in the side.
“There’s some serious pedigree and they have the right attitude, too, to play inter-county football which is key. These fellows take their football very seriously and they are a joy to manage. We’re looking forward to the next few weeks,” he concluded.
Dublin beat Offaly last night in the Leinster championship and will be hot favourites to get past the Ulster winners in their semi-final, meaning a Kerry-Dublin All-Ireland showdown could be on the cards.