WHILE the big one remained agonisingly out of reach, All-Ireland hurling titles did return to Leeside this year with three underage titles being gobbled up, but another significant feature of 2021 was the welcome return of the raising of green flags in Cork hurling.
We take a look back at 10 of the best goals scored by Cork teams in this calendar year, in no particular order. It is best to have the phone handy to have a look back at these Christmas crackers.
The Sars speedster had a number of nominations, and in truth, one or two were left out in the interest of variation.
This particular evening was a tough one for Cork at the Gaelic Grounds, as they were suffocated all over the pitch, but O’Connor did light up the game with a peach in the second half, when he collected a long ball into the left corner, turned on a six-pence, burning Richie English for pace, and somehow improvising a brilliant batted finish to send the ball past a despairing Barry Hennessy.
"This is a brilliant finish"— eir Sport (@eirSport) June 5, 2021
Jack O'Connor has got his second goal for @OfficialCorkGAA as they attack the home side with pace.
Live on eir sport 1!#AllianzLeagues #LIMvCOR pic.twitter.com/AmUZlMSxah
If you only caught the last couple seconds of this goal you probably wouldn’t think much of it, as a Padraig Power drive is brilliantly saved by Dublin keeper Eddie Gibbons, only for it to pop up to allow Courcey Rovers’ Sean Twomey to bat it into the empty net, but the build-up is what made this special.
It all started over on the right-hand sideline when Alan Connolly picked up a loose ball, but seemed completely boxed in by three Dublin defenders. Somehow, he wriggled free of the first pair, and then skilfully flicked it over the next, before going on a slaloming run to set up Power inside.
Midleton’s Cremin only started the final due to an injury to Ballincollig’s Tadhg O’Connell, but he starred, scoring 1-2 in the historic triumph.
Cork were already 10 points up when Eoin O’Leary brilliantly scooped the sliotar into Cremin’s path and he smashed it to the back of the Galway net to ensure that Cork would be winning their first minor title in 20 long years.
Limerick’s Kyle Hayes had scored a superb long-range goal from the wing-back position just two weeks previously against Tipp, but O’Mahony came up with almost a replica against Dublin in Thurles.
Robbie O’Flynn started the move, breaking the initial line, and he managed to pop a pass out of the tackle to the supporting O’Mahony, who burst through the attempted Liam Rushe tackle and was able to send a crisp left-sided shot off of his hurley to the back of the net.
Tim O'Mahony le sárchúl do @OfficialCorkGAA— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) December 25, 2021
⏰ 17:10 @TG4TV
🏐 GAA - Cúil na Bliana 2021 🥎
30 de na cúil is fearr, dar leis an bpobal, ó chluichí CLG na bliana seo.
The 30 best Hurling & Football Goals Of The Year in 2021 as voted by the public.@officialgaa pic.twitter.com/JteeGlQvwb
Blarney’s Power has the unique distinction of pilfering goals in two U20 finals in the same year. Something that will probably never be done again.
This goal was needed. Cork had dominated the first half and probably should have been more than 10 points up at half-time. Galway stormed back at them though, and the lead was down to three when Brian Hayes released Power into space in the 37th minute.
Power duly unleashed a rasping shot to the back of the net from 20 yards and the momentum was back with Cork.
Limerick had just scored a goal and Cork responded instantly as Eoin Cadogan, Mark Coleman, and Darragh Fitzgibbon engineered an opening to put Kingston in the clear 45 yards out on the left.
The Douglas man had lots to do, as he raced by Sean Finn before unleashing an unstoppable shot from a tight angle past Nicky Quaid in the Limerick goal. Unfortunately, that’s as good as it got from a Cork perspective.
Tipp were in the ascendancy at the start of the second half of this encounter when Kanturk’s Brian O’Sullivan stood over a sideline cut on the right-hand side of Semple Stadium. Cork needed a moment. They got it.
O’Sullivan’s cut floated in on top of the Tipp square and there looked to be little danger until Sarsfields’ Daniel Hogan intervened with the deftest of aerial flicks to divert the ball to the back of the net, for a delightful goal.
A great team goal was sparked by a great catch in defence by Tim O’Mahony. He fed Luke Meade, who pinged it out to Seamus Harnedy on the left wing. The St Ita’s man played a low ball down the wing to O’Mahony, who had made a great run from deep, and he in turn hand passed to Darragh Fitzgibbon, who quickly released to the supporting Robbie O’Flynn, who brilliantly finished.
Cobh’s Timmy Wilk sent a long delivery into Limerick territory, and the sliotar ran kindly for the Dungourney marksman, with a point looking the likely outcome, but Leahy broke through the Limerick cover before blasting to the net, as he rifled 1-14 to send Cork to the Munster final.
Arguably the best of the lot, and in such important circumstances too.
Jack O'Connor leis an luas agus an críoch do @OfficialCorkGAA— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) December 25, 2021
⏰ 17:10 @TG4TV
🏐 GAA - Cúil na Bliana 2021 🥎
30 de na cúil is fearr, dar leis an bpobal, ó chluichí CLG na bliana.
The 30 best Hurling & Football Goals Of The Year as voted by the public.@officialgaa #GAA pic.twitter.com/8peGJ6jDDq
O’Connor running off Seamus Harnedy’s shoulder down the left wing like an express train to run right at the Kilkenny defence in the 79th minute of an All-Ireland semi-final.
The Cats had no response to his blistering pace, and even from the tightest of angles, while running at speed, he was able to blast past All-Star goalkeeper Eoin Murphy to wrestle back Cork’s grip on the tie.
Let’s hope we have a similar collection to look back on in 2022.