Cork 1-15 Kerry 1-14
CORK ended an eight-year wait since their last Munster minor football championship win over Kerry by winning a thrilling semi-final at windy Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Friday evening.
Champions Kerry died with their boots on, coming from seven points down against the wind in the second half to almost force extra-time only to kick a last-gasp free wide.
They had the best player on view in centre-forward Eoghan Hassett, who finished with 1-9, but Cork just about deserved to advance to the final on Wednesday week.
Kerry captain Dara O’Callaghan won the toss and decided to play with the wind from the start, but any hopes of establishing a commanding lead vanished after Cork dominated for long spells.
Cork began promisingly with early points from Hugh O’Connor (free), who was denied a goal by the outstretched leg of keeper Kieran Mackessy, and Niall Kelly before Kerry got a grip to kick four answered points with Hassett and Luke Crowley prominent to lead 0-4 to 0-2 after eight minutes.
But, Cork, who kicked seven wides in the period, took over to edge in front at the first water-break with O’Connor (free), Jack O’Neill and Kelly pointing for 0-5 to 0-4.
The second quarter was even more profitable as midfielders Rory O’Shaughnessy and Michael McSweeney won an amount of ball in the centre, allowing dashing wing-backs Darragh O’Brien and Sam Copps join attacking moves.
They struck a golden patch between minutes 25 and 29, when Cork outscored their opponents by 1-3 without reply to seemingly take a grip of proceedings.
O’Connor, O’Brien and James O’Driscoll stretched the advantage to four points before Cork prised open the Kerry defence with slick passing and creative running.
O’Driscoll carved out the opportunity with a well-timed pass for McSweeney, who timed his dart forward to perfection, receiving the ball before unleashing a crashing shot to the back of the net.
It was a major boost for Cork’s prospects even if Kerry’s Robert Monahan landed the closing score of the half to leave his side with a mountain to climb on the resumption, trailing by 1-9 to 0-6.
The second half began disastrously for Cork, however, as they coughed up a soft goal after careless use of possession, allowing Hassett pounce to hand Kerry a lifeline, now just three points adrift.
Cork’s defence lived dangerously at times before they eventually settled and the forwards came alive once again, kicking four on the bounce for a 1-13 to 1-6 lead at the second water break.
But, they would score twice again on the resumption as Kerry took over in the middle third and slowly began to eat into the deficit.
Hassett was central to the comeback and Cork were grateful to keeper Mikey O’Connell for a brave save to smother a shot from substitute Darragh O’Connor after 48 minutes.
Cork still led by three entering four minutes of additional time and it was down to the minimum, but they survived in a hectic finish when Kelly was shown a black card.
N Kelly 0-6 (0-1 f), H O’Connor 0-4 (0-3f), M McSweeney 1-0, J O’Neill 0-3, J O’Driscoll and D O’Brien 0-1 each.
E Hassett 1-9 (0-5 f), L Crowley 0-2, D O’Callaghan, R Monahan, J Clifford 0-1 each.
M O’Connell (St Michael’s); D Twomey (Ballinascarthy), S O’Connell (Kilshannig), P O’Grady (Kilavullen); S Copps (Mallow), C Twomey (Carbery Rangers), D O’Brien (Glanworth); M McSweeney (Knocknagree), R O’Shaughnessy (St Michael’s), joint-captain; J O’Neill (Castlehaven), N Kelly (Newcestown), C Gillespie (Aghabullogue); O Corcorcan (St Mary’s), J O’Driscoll (Castlehaven), H O’Connor (Newmarket), joint-captain.
B Hayes (Nemo Rangers) for Gillespie and D Crowley (Urhan) for McSweeney, 47, C Cusack (Nemo Rangers) for O’Grady injured 52, N Daly (Ilen Rovers) for O’Neill 55, A Kelleher (St Colum’s) for Twomey 59.
K Mackessy; R Diggin, D O’Callaghan, captain, C Lynch; E McCarthy, A Segal, R Colleran; R Monahan, J Kelleher; J Clifford, E Hassett, R Mahoney; C Dillon, L Crowley, D Roche.
C Keating for Kelleher half-time, D Conway for Mahoney 43, J Doyle for Colleran 45, D O’Connor for Dillon and C Kennedy for McCarthy 60.
C Maguire (Clare).