Cork find extra gear to edge Kingdom in epic Munster Under 21 Final
Munster U-21 FC final
CORK retained their Munster title in the most dramatic fashion possible at Austin Stack Park, Tralee, last night.
A late Kerry rally in normal time forced this epic provincial final into overtime, but Cork secured back-to-back titles when they blitzed Kerry early in the opening half of extra-time.
Reeling off 1-3 -- including a fantastic goal by Luke Connolly after a sweeping attack -- Cork moved 2-11 to 0-11 clear by half-time of extra-time, with Kerry being held scoreless as their challenge looked to have hit the wall.
But this amazing game had yet more twists and turns because after Eanna O'Connor pulled a score back, Chris Brady then converted a 75th-minute penalty to leave the Kingdom just two points behind, 2-11 to 1-12.
A Dan McEoin free gave Cork some much-needed breathing space, but late scores from subs Eanna O'Connor and Gavin O'Grady left Kerry just a point behind going into the end of extra-time.
But there was to be no more drama, as Cork held out for victory in one of the best provincial finals in many years.
Cork were driven on by Man of the Match Brian Hurley. The signs looked ominous early on for Kerry when Cork totally bossed the opening 10 minutes and raced 0-4 to 0-0 clear. Dominating possession, and with centre-forward Mark Sugrue and corner-forward Brian Hurley causing havoc, a physically stronger Cork caught Kerry cold.
Within five minutes, Hurley (2), Connolly and corner-back Alan Cronin had pointed Cork into a strong early advantage, but Conor Cox settled Kerry nerves when he slotted over after 10 minutes.
Taking confidence from this, Kerry pushed on. After Kieran Hurley pointed from close-range, a pair of Cox frees had pulled the home side level, 0-4 apiece, but then a surging run from Rebels wing-back Jamie Wall ended with a fine score, to edge Cork in front once more.
Just before the break, Cork bagged the opening goal after a Connolly free from distance drifted dangerously into the Kerry square, inviting Donal Og Hodnett to snatch it in the air. When the ball fell to the deck, Hodnett reacted to prod it home, to send his side into half-time with a 1-5 to 0-5 lead.
Despite another Cox free leaving Kerry just two adrift early in the second half, Cork soon swelled their lead out to four, 1-7 to 0-6, with a sweet effort from Hurley followed by a rousing John O'Rourke effort.
But two Cox frees and a Shane O'Carroll strike had Kerry just a point behind with seven minutes left.
Another Hurley free gave Cork a two-point cushion but two terrific Kerry scores in injury-time -- the first a Cox free from distance, the second a superb O'Carroll sideline ball -- forced extra-time.
But with Kerry lacking composure and rushing kicks early in extra-time, it allowed Cork build up an advantage, which they held on to.
Scorers -- Cork: B Hurley 0-4 (2f) , D Og Hodnett, L Connolly 1-1 each, D McEoin 0-2 (1f) , R Deane, A Cronin, J O'Rourke, J Wall 0-1 each. Kerry: C Cox 0-8 (7f), C Brady 1-0 (1 pen), S O'Carroll, E O'Connor (1f) 0-2 each, K Hurley, G O'Grady 0-1 each.
Cork -- S Mellet; D O'Donovan, D Cahalane, A Cronin; J Cronin, T Clancy, J Wall; R Deane, E Healy; K Hallissey, M Sugrue, J O'Rourke; L Connolly, B Hurley, D Og Hodnett. Subs: D Nation for E Healy (49), C O'Sullivan for T Clancy (49), A Cadogan for M Sugrue (57), D McEoin for K Hallissey (60), D Drake for J O'Rourke (70), B O'Driscoll for J Wall (76).
Kerry -- P O'Sullivan; M Galvin, M Griffin, F McNamara; P Kilkenny, J Sherwood, P Murphy; D O'Sullivan, J Walsh; S O'Carroll, C Brady, S O'Brien; I Galvin, C Cox, K Hurley. Subs: M Reen for I Galvin (26), N O'Shea for K Hurley (43), D Culhane for M Galvin (53), T Morley for J Sherwood (65), G O'Grady for C Cox (65), E O'Connor for S O'Carroll (70).
REF -- K O'Brien (Tipperary).