By Ger McCarthy
CORK are in good shape to defend their U20 All-Ireland title.
They beat a good Kildare side in the final of the John Kerins Cup, in the John Lockes club, in Callan, Kilkenny, on Saturday afternoon.
Two of the heroes of last year’s team, Blake Murphy and Mark Cronin, tormented Kildare, who had come through a group containing Dublin, Meath, and Laois.
The early stages were tightly contested and the score was 0-4 each after 12 minutes, following two well-taken scores by Cronin, for Cork.
Conor Russell, Brian Hayes, and Cronin had put Cork 0-7 to 0-4 ahead by the 21st minute.
Kildare came back into the game in the last minutes of the half and the impressive Shane O’Sullivan scored twice in a row to leave the minimum between the teams.
Just as they were building momentum, a fine Cork move, in the last attack of the half, ended with Cronin setting up Murphy, who scored a goal. That put Cork 1-7 to 0-6 ahead at the break.
Cork really got on top around the middle of the pitch in the second-half and scored five points in a row between the 39th and 45th minutes. They led 1-13 to 0-8.
To give Kildare, the 2018 U20 All-Ireland winners, their credit, they didn’t buckle under that pressure and answered back with three points to come back into the game.
Any thoughts of repeating the sort of late comeback that had earned them a draw against Dublin, and a win against Meath, were banished when Blake Murphy raced away to score his second goal.
Shane O’Sullivan pulled back a late consolation goal for Kildare, but Cork were full value for their win.
Keith Ricken’s side showed good heart for the battle, as well as the talents of the likes of Murphy, Cronin, and also Daniel O’Connell, in midfield. You wouldn’t rule out these two sides meeting again, once the Championship gets into full swing.
Scorers: Cork – B Murphy 2-2 (1f), M Cronin 0-6 (1f), B Hayes 0-2, D O’Connell 0-1, F Herlihy 0-1, K Twomey 0-1, C Russell 0-1 (mark).
Kildare – S O’Sullivan 1-7 (5fs), D Kirwan 0-3, L Griffin 0-1, P McDermott 0-1.
CORK: Josh O’Keeffe; Colm O’Shea, Daniel O’Mahoney, Diarmuid Phelan; Ciaran O’Sullivan, Sean Desmond, Brian Lynch; Brian Hayes, Jack Lawton; Daniel O’Connell, Mark Cronin, Fionn Herlihy; Kieran Twomey, Blake Murphy cpt., Conor Russell. Subs: Eoghan Lehane for Desmond, 26; Aodhá Ó Luasa for Russell, h/t; Darragh Hayes for Twomey, h/t; Gerry O’Sullivan for Herlihy, 40; Ciaran Nyhan for Lawton, 52.
KILDARE: Kyle Costello; Jack Hamill, John Lawler, Sean Moore, DJ Earley, Jack Collins, Adam Conneely; Darren McDermott, Tony O’Connor; Alex Beirne, Darragh Kirwan, Findlay Nairn; Luke Griffin, Shane O’Sullivan, Paudi Behan. Subs: Aaron Browne for Beirne, h/t; Paddy McDermott for Earley, h/t; Jack Sargent for Hamill, h/t; Mark Cully for Griffin, 49; Aaron Browne for Adam Conneely, 49.
REFEREE: Chris Dwyer, Offaly.