Under 17s claim famous win against fourteen man Dublin
All-Ireland Under 17 Hurling Final: Cork 1-19 Dublin 1-17
What a summer this has been for Cork hurling. It could get even better next Sunday when the county's minors and seniors travel to Dublin for an All-Ireland semi-final double bill, as they face off against Dublin and Waterford respectively.
Last Sunday, there was another boost when the young Rebels were crowned inaugural All-Ireland Under 17 champions at Croke Park. With a heavy sprinkling of minor stars in their ranks, Cork edged past Dublin by two points.
The Sky Blues had to play with fourteen players from the 42nd minute, when Tom Aherne was issued with a second yellow card, but they showed real fight to stay in the game. This was a struggle for Cork, in contrast to their previous outings in this year's competition, but they got the job done.
Down the home straight, John Considine's Cork managed to keep Dublin at arm's length, and finished as deserving winners. Dublin will rue Aherne's red card, while goalkeeper Eddie Gibbons, who netted a first half penalty, sent another one hurtling over the crossbar in the 37th minute.
When Aherne was sent off, Dublin were two points down, before Cork stretched the gap to three points. On four more occasions before the finish, Cork led by three and while Dublin did get within one, with eight minutes left, they could never draw level. At half-time, Cork held a slender one-point lead, ahead by 1-9 to 1-8.
Dublin opened better and stormed into an early 0-4 to 0-1 lead - Aherne, Billy Ryan, Liam Murphy (free) and Kevin Kirwan all on target in an unanswered spell, after Blake Murphy had put Cork ahead with a superb opening score.
But Cork worked their way back to level at 0-5 each by the 14th minute, with minor panellists Daire Connery, Colin O'Brien (scorer of 1-10 in the Under 17 semi-final victory over Galway) and Declan Hanlon leading the charge.
Dublin struck for goal in the 20th minute, as Gibbons slammed home a superb penalty after Kirwan was fouled. That score put Dublin 1-6 to 0-6 clear and the lead moved out to four points when captain Mark Grogan landed a score. But Cork hit 1-3 without reply between the 24th and 29th minutes to gain the whip hand, the goal coming from full-forward Joe Stack in the 28th minute.
Aaron Walsh Barry sent a long ball towards the Dublin square and Stack out-muscled his marker Kevin Burke, brother of senior player Donal, before finding the net. Blake Murphy registered his second point for Cork to move the young Rebels 1-9 to 1-7 in front, before Liam Murphy's third free of the half kept Dublin in touch at the break.
Early in the second period, the sides were level twice, at 1-10 and 1-11 apiece, but there was a feeling that Cork were turning the screw, even before Aherne picked up that second yellow card.
After Liam Murphy was hauled down by Cork goalkeeper Eoin Davis, Gibbons had that second penalty chance but his effort cleared the crossbar. Cork managed to hold firm in a tense finish, as sub Owen McCarthy came off the bench to score two crucial points.
The counties will meet again next Sunday at Croke Park - with a place in the Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Hurling Final on offer for the winners. And so, a season that was met with initial trepidation in Cork has already seen the county claim national silverware.
There could be more to come in the minor and senior grades, while the Under 21s were unlucky to lose a Munster final against Limerick, minus injured Luke Meade and suspended Darragh Fitzgibbon.
The future, immediate and long-term, looks extremely bright, and these talented Under 17s have blazed a trail for their minor and senior counterparts.
Scorers Cork: Daire Connery 0-6 (5f), Colin O'Brien 0-5 (3f), Joe Stack 1-0, Declan Hanlon 0-3, Blake Murphy and Owen McCarthy 0-2 each, Cormac O'Brien 0-1. Dublin: Liam Murphy 0-7f, Eddie Gibbons 1-1 (pens), Lee Gannon and Billy Ryan 0-2 each, Enda O'Donnell, Tom Aherne, Mark Grogan, Kevin Kirwan, and Mícheál Murphy (65) 0-1 each.
CORK: Eoin Davis; Eoin Roche, Ciarán Nyhan, Ronan Sheehan; Cormac O'Brien, Conor O'Callaghan, Aaron Walsh Barry; Daire Connery, Seán Twomey; Brian Roche, Declan Hanlon, Tommy O'Connell; Blake Murphy, Joe Stack, Colin O'Brien Subs: Ronan McCarthy for Cormac O'Brien (temp 23-30), Owen McCarthy for O'Connell (35), Shane Barrett for Murphy (53)
DUBLIN: Eddie Gibbons; Andrew Dunphy, Kevin Burke, Tommy Kinnane; Seán Kinsella, Enda O'Donnell, Lee Gannon; Tom Aherne, Mícheál Murphy; Kevin Kirwan, Billy Ryan, Mark Grogan; Luke McDwyer, Kevin Desmond, Liam Murphy Subs: Seán Clerkin for Desmond (44), Liam Dunne for M Murphy (52), Mark Sweeney for Kirwan (54)
REFEREE: John Keane (Galway).
This was a gritty, team display from Cork. Daire Connery covered every blade of grass at midfield. When Dublin were reduced to 14 players, Connery dropped back as the spare man and mopped up effectively. Another stellar display from Connery, who will lead the minor charge next Sunday.
Joe Stack's first half goal for Cork was a key moment, in a spell when they were in the ascendancy. Stack did brilliantly to hold off Kevin Burke before finding the net, and it was a score that effectively separated the sides.