Cork 3-12 Kerry 3-11
A STRONG contender for ‘ game of the year’ came in the sweltering heat of mid-July at Páirc Uí Chaoimh when the neighbours served up a thrilling Munster U20 football semi-final.
It was played amid the usual Covid restrictions with very limited numbers permitted and more’s the pity because it was a terrific contest from start to finish featuring the defending champions, Kerry, against the 2019 winners, Cork.
The visitors, who won the corresponding minor game three years ago by a point, included nine All-Ireland minor winners in their team with Cork parading four from their 2019 success against Galway.
Goals featured prominently in the tie with 2019 minor captain Conor Corbett underlining his standing as one of the most exciting forwards in years with a game-high contribution of 2-4 with Jack Cahalane, another of the 2019 minors, scoring the other goal.
Dylan Geaney, Darragh Lyne, and Paul O’Shea, from a penalty, bagged Kerry’s goals in a game that went down to the wire and looked set for extra-time only for Kerry to squander a late chance for an equaliser.
In the end, it came down to super-sub Ciaran O’Sullivan punching over a dramatic winning point in the fourth minute of injury-time at a stage, when Cork were playing with 14 men after corner-back Colm O’Donovan saw yellow for the second time for a foul on O’Shea, who converted the resulting penalty.
It brought the holders back into the contest, trailing by 3-8 to 2-8, and the same player added two more points as the game moved to stoppage time.
Kerry sub Sean Quilter equalised with a free, with extra-time looming until Cork had other ideas.
Captain Brian Hayes caught the resulting kick-out from keeper Gavin Creedon superbly and a brilliant move ended with O’Sullivan’s winner.
The third quarter showed Cork at their brilliant best as they improved on their one-point interval advantage to outscore their rivals by 1-4 to 0-2 for a 3-11 to 2-8 advantage at the water break.
The magnificent Corbett pounced for the goal after 45 minutes following a quickly taken free by Cahalane to David Buckley, who supplied the telling pass.
The first-half was equally rivetting, the rivals equally sharing four goals as Cork edged it by 2-7 to 2-6 after Corbett unleashed a rocket in injury-time following a Cahalane pass, having earlier set up Cahalane for his goal.
Kerry struck first by opening up the home defence for midfielder Lyne to stretch his long legs before finishing impressively with a low shot for a 1-3 to 0-4 lead.
It was somewhat against the run of play after Cork had begun brightly and led by 0-4 to 0-2 by the 12th minute with Corbett firing over from close range for the third point.
And while Geaney made it a goal-game with a free immediately on the resumption after the water-break, Cork restored parity to set the tone for a rip-roaring contest.
Scorers for Cork: C Corbett 2-4 (0-2 f), J Cahalane 1-0, D Buckley 0-3, C Walsh, A Walsh-Murphy, C O’Hanlon, C O’Sullivan 0-1 each, D Dorgan 0-1 f.
Kerry: D Geaney 1-4 (0-4 f), P O’Shea 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-2 f), D Lyne 1-0, S Quilter 0-2 f, K Falvey, C Hayes, R Begley 0-1 each.
CORK: G Creedon (Kilshannig); C O’Donovan (Newcestown), D Phelan (Aghada), C McGoldrick (Éire Óg); A Walsh-Murphy (Valley Rovers), T Walsh (Kanturk), D Cashman (Millstreet); B Hayes (St Finbarr’s), captain, E Cooke (Ballincollig); C Corbett (Clyda Rovers), J Cahalane (Castlehaven), N Hartnett (Douglas); D Dorgan (Ballincollig), C Walsh (Kanturk), D Buckley (Newcestown).
Subs: C O’Hanlon (Buttevant) for C Walsh 30, S O’Sullivan (Adrigole) for O’Hanlon injured 40, E Nash (Douglas) for Dorgan 55, N Lordan (Ballinora) for Phelan injured 56, C O’Sullivan (Kilshannig) for Cooke 60.
KERRY: M Kelliher; C Moriarty, J McCarthy, O Fitzgerald; D Murphy, E O’Sullivan, E Clifford; D Lyne, S O’Brien, captain; T Doyle, D Geaney, K Falvey; C Hayes, P O’Shea, R O Beaglaoich.
Subs: J Kennelly for Doyle and S Quilter for Hayes 39, A Dineen for Moriarty 46, P D’Arcy for Falvey 50, P Walsh for O Beaglaoich 59.
Referee: J Hayes (Limerick)