Cork claim All-Ireland U20 hurling title for second time in just under six weeks

Rebels overcome Galway in decider in Thurles, having won 2020 championship last month
Cork claim All-Ireland U20 hurling title for second time in just under six weeks

GAA Hurling All-Ireland Under 20 Championship Final, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Tipperary 18/8/2021

Cork 4-19 Galway 2-14

After waiting so long to end a 22-year gap, Cork won the shortest U20 championship in recent times with an 11-point victory over Galway in Thurles on Wednesday evening.

Having had to wait until July 10 to claim the 2020 championship – a first win at the grade since 1998 – Cork faced straight back into the new campaign a week and a half later. Wins over Tipperary and Limerick brought Munster glory and the back-to-back feat of 1997 and ’98 was matched in style at Semple Stadium. Captain Cormac O’Brien, Ciarán Joyce, Darragh Flynn, Brian Hayes, Pádraig Power and Jack Cahalane claimed All-Ireland medals on the pitch for the second time in 39 days, while Dáire O’Leary would have been part of that group but for injury.

Pádraig Power scores Cork's third goal in Thurles. Photo: Inpho/Laszlo Geczo
Pádraig Power scores Cork's third goal in Thurles. Photo: Inpho/Laszlo Geczo

In Nowlan Park in July, Cork had started the 2020 final against Dublin with an unanswered 1-4 as they roared into a lead that wouldn’t be relinquished at any stage. Here - despite thier preparations being disrupted by Covid-19 - they went one better, registering 1-5 before Galway got off the mark, and the half-time lead of 2-9 to 0-5 was more flattering to Pat Ryan’s side, who had the luxury of 13 wides in the opening period.

The loose shooting aside, they were imperious, though. While full-back O’Leary was ruled out with the hamstring problem that forced him off in the Munster final win over Limerick, Cork benefited from the fact that Galway played a two-man full-forward for much of the first half, allowing Ciarán Joyce to sweep effectively, while Cormac O’Brien and Eoin Downey carried out their marking duties with rigour.

At midfield, Sam Quirke and Diarmuid Kearney – who came in for O’Leary, with Brian O’Sullivan dropping to defence – were well on top and Cork’s dominance flowed from that. They had an ideal start, when, as Jack Cahalane tried to get to a loose ball in the Galway goalmouth in the third minute, he was felled by Galway goalkeeper Paddy Rabbitte. Darragh Flynn slotted home the resultant penalty and added two more frees soon after that while Quirke and Cahalane had points, too.

GAA Hurling All-Ireland Under 20 Championship Final, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Tipperary 18/8/2021
GAA Hurling All-Ireland Under 20 Championship Final, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Tipperary 18/8/2021

Cahalane was heavily involved at centre-forward and, when Flynn’s third free put Cork eight ahead, they were fully deserving.

Galway did get going as Donal O’Shea landed a pair of frees as Cork’s wides tally reached six by the 15th minute, but just before the water-break the Rebels had a second goal. When a long puckout from goalkeeper Cathal Wilson wasn’t dealt with by the Galway defence, Cahalane was able to collect the loose ball and slot home for a 2-5 to 0-2 lead.

Cork’s scoring rate dropped in the second quarter, not helped by the continued inaccuracy from scoring positions, though the stellar play of Pádraig Power at full-forward ensured that they remained in a strong position, the Blarney man landing a pair of super efforts on 18 and 21 minutes.

As half-time approached, Cork almost had a third goal as Cahalane found Brian Hayes and he took the right option in looking for Daniel Hogan rather than attempting his own score, but Rabbitte saved well to deny the centre-forward. Nevertheless, the ten-point advantage Cork took in at the break looked more than secure. Amazingly, by the time they would get their first score of the second half, Galway were within a score.

The Tribesmen started brightly with points from John Cooney, a pair of O’Shea frees and a Seán McDonagh score and they were right back in it, 2-9 to 1-9, when O’Shea landed a goal from Greg Thomas’s pass.

Cork could have wavered, but instead they responded in the best way, as Hayes carried the ball forward and played in Power, who slotted home to ease and worries. That six-point lead was still intact, 3-11 to 1-11, by the water-break, with the relocation of Flynn to midfield settling Cork while sub Ben Cunningham had got his name on the scoresheet.

Cork's Robbie Cotter and Shane Morgan of Galway battle for possession in the All-Ireland U20HC final in Semple Stadium. Photo: Inpho/Laszlo Geczo
Cork's Robbie Cotter and Shane Morgan of Galway battle for possession in the All-Ireland U20HC final in Semple Stadium. Photo: Inpho/Laszlo Geczo

Another Galway goal looked necessary to reignite their hopes but Cork’s defence ensured that no real chances were allowed to develop. At the other end, they began to pull away as the end neared, with Cunningham and fellow sub Luke Horgan on target while Brian Hayes ensured that all six starting forwards scored.

As the 60th minute dawned, the lead was 12 points, extended further when Cunningham set up his St Finbarr’s team-mate for Cork’s fourth goal. Galway did have a late reply in kind through sub Alex Connaire, but it was Cork’s night and season.

Scorers for Cork: P Power, D Flynn (1-0 penalty, 0-4f) 1-5 each, B Hayes 1-2, J Cahalane 1-1, B Cunningham 0-2, S Quirke, R Cotter, D Hogan, L Horgan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Galway: D O’Shea 1-7 (0-7f), S McDonagh 0-3, A Connaire 1-0, G Lee 0-2, J Cooney, G Thomas 0-1 each.

CORK: C Wilson (Newcestown); E Downey (Glen Rovers), E Twomey (St Finbarr’s), C O’Brien (Newtownshandrum); K Moynihan (Na Piarsaigh), C Joyce (Castlemartyr), B O’Sullivan (Kanturk); S Quirke (Midleton), D Kearney (Cobh); J Cahalane (St Finbarr’s), D Flynn (Ballygiblin), B Hayes (St Finbarr’s); R Cotter (Blackrock), P Power (Blarney), D Hogan (Sarsfields).

Subs: B Cunningham (St Finbarr’s) for Kearney (39), L Horgan (Glen Rovers) for Cotter (47), M Mullins (Whitechurch) for Hogan (55), C O’Donovan (Douglas) for Moynihan (57), C McCarthy (Sarsfields) for Quirke (59).

GALWAY: P Rabbitte; C Brennan, E Geraghty, E Lawless; E Duggan, S Neary, S Quirke; I McGlynn, D Kilcommins; G Thomas, S McDonagh, J Cooney; N Collins, D O’Shea, O Flannery.

Subs: J O’Donoghue for McGlynn (29, injured), G Lee for N Collins (half-time), L Collins for Flannery (45), A Connaire for Thomas, O Salmon for Duggan (47), Referee: J Murphy (Limerick).

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