IS it possible to be both lucky and unlucky at the same time?
If so then the Kingdom's minors can be said to have been in that position in Pairc Uí Rinn on Friday evening.
Kerry were lucky not to have been defeated in ordinary time. Cork had so many chances to put this game to bed (eight wides, numerous chances dropped short into Kerry keeper Shane Ryan's hands, a penalty saved). And yet when it came down to it Kerry can feel, perhaps, more than a little hard done by.
With just seconds on the clock – and with a hard earned and well deserved three point advantage – they looked to have weathered the storm and done enough to earn the victory. Cork's Conor O'Driscoll had just cracked the ball off the upright. Don O'Driscoll had another chance saved. It was all a little chaotic. With Cork still in possession of the ball referee Alan Kissane blew the whistle and threw his arms to his side to indicate a penalty.
For what nobody seemed quite sure. A possible footblock the most likely reason. Substitute Aidan Moynihan stepped up, blasted it hard and watched as the ball squirted under the well placed Ryan's body. Moynihan followed up and booted the ball to the back of the net just to be sure it had, in fact, gone over the line. It gave Cork a share of the spoils, set up a replay in Austin Stack Park this Friday evening, which was, probably, the fairest possible outcome.
Had Cork lost this game it would have been one of those truly bewildering defeats. They dominated the middle third so comprehensively through Peter O'Neill and Ryan Harkin and had more than enough possession to win this game and win it comfortably. They seemed to have enough forwards with power and pace to take advantage too – Jack Bushe, Killian O'Connor and Michael Cahalane were particularly impressive.
Kerry were forced to fight a rearguard action and, while they were under pressure at the back, certain players impressed – corner-back Padraig Ó Conchuir and wing-back Matthew Flaherty, especially. When Kerry were able to get the ball into offensive positions they showed a real cutting edge. David Foran got the game's opening score. Conor Keane, meanwhile, was simply sensational. He showed great vision and guile turning provider on a couple of occasions early on, cutting the Cork defence wide open. Keane set Killian Spillane up for Kerry's first goal.
The goal kept Kerry alive in this contest. It didn't turn the tide or anything like that. Cork were still on top. Kerry's last score of the half came about thirteen minutes before the whistle – an exquisitely taken point by Keane – while Cork continued to push. Don O'Driscoll set Michael Cahalane up for a goal in the 20th minute and Jack Bushe followed up with an exceptional point to give Cork a two point advantage at the break. It was the least their efforts deserved.
Kerry started the second half brighly. Keane scored an early point, responed to brilliantly by Stephen Cronin, before following up with a sweetly struck '45. A couple of Jack Savage frees gave Kerry an unlikely lead –1-6 to 1-5. The fear for the locals was that their side's profligacy would come back to haunt them. It did, of course, it just didn't lead to their defeat. With Cahalane to the fore (scoring two on-the-trot) they regained the lead (the initiative never left them).
Wing-back Kevin O'Neill, centre-forward Killian O'Connor and substitute Richard O'Sullian fired them three clear and in pole position to see the game out with six minutes remaining. Kerry showed admirable resolve. Savage earned and pointed a free. Keane stepped up and scored from play. They were back in the hunt. Not even another pointed free from full-forward Cahalane broke their resolve.
Matthew Flaherty popped up and got on the end of a lovely move to bring Kerry back to within one and that man Keane, with great patience, took his time and picked his spot and sent the ball between the sticks to earn Kerry a crack at extra-time (1-10 a piece).
The Kingdom dominated the first half of extra-time. They outscored the Rebels 1-2 – the goal courtesy of Keane – to 0-1. Cork pegged them back to two points in the second half of extra-time, before a Savage free extended their lead to three once more. A safe lead under the circumstances most present assumed. Cork, obviously, didn't get the memo. They pushed forward one last time and earned themselves, arguably, the least their efforts deserved.
Cork: Anthony Casey, Michael McSweeney, Kieran Histon, NIall Hayes, Kevin O'Neill, Stephen Cronin (0-1), Rickard O'Cahalane, Peter O'Neill, Ryan Harkin, Don O'Driscoll (0-2, 1f), Killian O'Connor (0-3), Kevin Cremin, Conor O'Driscoll, Michael Cahalane (1-5, 3f), Jack Bushe (0-1) Subs: Dylan Cronin for N Hayes, Aidan Moynihan (1-0, penalty) for C O'Driscoll, Sean White for P O'Neill, Richard O'Sullivan (0-1) for D O'Driscoll, Trevor Horgan for K Histon, Patrick O'Brien for R Cahalane, C O'Driscoll for A Moynihan, Mark Prendergast for T Horgan, D O'Driscoll for C O'Driscoll, A Moynihan for K Cremin
Kerry: Shane Ryan (Rathmore), Sean T Dillon (St Senans), Cathal Ó Luing (An Ghaeltacht), Padraig Ó Conchuir (Dingle), Matthew O'Flaherty (0-1) (Dingle), Greg Horan (Austin Stacks), Brian Sugrue (Renard), Eanna Ó Conchuir (An Ghaeltacht), Barry O'Sullivan (Dingle), David Foran (0-1) (St Senans), Jack Savage (0-4f) (Kerins O'Rahillys), Tomás Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht), Conor Keane (0-6, 1 '45) (Legion), Shane O'Connor (John Mitchels), Killian Spillane (2-0) (Templenoe) Subs: Kevin Shanahan (Ardfert) for B O'Sullivan, Conor Jordan (0-1) (Austin Stacks) for S O'Connor, Fionán Clifford for B Sugrue, Kieran Murphy (Glenflesk) for E Ó Conchuir, E Ó Conchuir for D Foran
Referee: Alan Kissane (Waterford)