Cork's exciting half-forward line the difference as the Rebels edge past gallant Monaghan
Cork reached their first All-Ireland U-21 football final since 2013 when they edged out Monaghan in a thrilling semi-final in O'Connor Park, Tullamore.
The win sets them up for a final clash against Mayo – a repeat of the 2006 decider which the Connacht side won.
Appearing in only their third All-Ireland U-21 semi-final Monaghan were magnificent at times, particularly in the first period, but the 1-7 contribution from the Cork half forward line proved decisive.
The first half was a throw back to a different, more innocent era in Gaelic football as both teams attacked at every opportunity. While Monaghan, in particularly, committed a lot of players to defence their ability to transfer through the hands at speed caused the Cork defence endless problems.
They also had the outstanding individual player on display in Barry McGinn who single handedly kept the Ulster champions in contention with his 1-5 contribution in the period.
Cork had a better balanced side; all six Rebel forwards had all scored from play by the 27th minute and, indeed, all but one of the game's 19 scores in the first half came from play.
There was little between the sides in the early stages as the sides shared seven points with Monaghan 4-3 ahead. But then Cork struck for their first goal Sean Powter – who took a generous number of steps in the process – crossed and Cork senior player Peter Kelleher found the net.
Monaghan roared back with McGinn hitting a brilliant individual goal ninety seconds later. Having outscored their opponents 3-1 during the next ten minutes Cork looked to have taken a decisive step towards a place in the final with a second goal from Ryan Harkin seven minutes from the break.
Unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when Donal Meegan appeared to be fouled by Cork goalkeeper Anthony Casey Monaghan outscored their opponents 4-1 during the remainder of the half with the brilliant McGinn hitting two brilliant scores to narrow the gap to a point at the break (2-7; 1-9).
There was nothing to separate the side in the early stages of the third quarter but gradually Cork – backed by the wind. The Monaghan defence couldn't cope with the growing influence of Michael Hurley – a younger brother of senior player Brian. He kicked two points as Cork went five points clear.
Monaghan hung in with a long range pointed free from goalkeeper Colin Forde and a point from Conor McCarthy. The Rebels lost Brian Coakley with a black card but his replacement Stephen Sherlock scored a point with his first touch.
The woodwork denied Sean Powter a Cork goal as the game entered its crucial stage but he hit his third point of the game six minutes from the end to stretch their lead to four. Monaghan brought it back to two to ensure a nail-bitng finish but Cork deservingly held out. In the final on Saturday week they will be bidding to win the title for the first time since 2009.
Cork: A Casey; M McSweeney, J Mullins. D Quinn; K Flahive, S Cronin, K Histon; S White, S O'Leary; S O'Donoghue (0-4), S Powter (0-3), R Harkin (1-1); B Coakley (0-2), P Kelleher (1-0), M Hurley (0-3). Subs: E Lavers for O'Leary ht; R O'Toole (0-1) for Quinn 41m, S Sherlock (0-1) for Coakley (BC) 45m; D O Duinnin for Harkin 54m; D Dorgan for Powter 60m.
Monaghan: C Forde (0-1,1f); B Kerr, M Murnaghan, K Loughran; D Ward (0-1), J Mealiff, N Rooney; N Loughnam, A Lynch; R McAnespie (0-1), B McGinn (1-6, 2f), D Meegan (0-1), A Treanor, C McCarthy (0-3, 1f), F McMahon (0-3) Subs: F Maguire for Treanor 17m, A Curran for Lynch 35m; B McBennett for McMahon 39m
Referee; J Hickey (Carlow)