Heartbreak for Galway minors after thriller on Jones' Road

The Galway squad that contested the Electric Ireland GAA Football All-Ireland Minor Championship final between Cork and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin.

The Galway squad that contested the Electric Ireland GAA Football All-Ireland Minor Championship final between Cork and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin.

The main event at Croke Park between Kerry and Dublin may have had the nation on the edge of its seats, but it was nothing compared to the closing moments of the minor final which preceded it.

This was a hard defeat for Galway to take. The cheers were still echoing around the stadium for Niall Cunningham's brave and brilliant goal that put Dónal O'Fátharta's side in front three minutes into injury time when Conor Corbett was found 20 seconds later on the Galway 21 metre line. Between Ruairí Keane and Jonathan McGrath, the Clyda Rangers man stepped inside and around Donie Halleran before rolling the ball to the net and levelling the game.

If this ending was written as fiction, it would be dismissed as being too fanciful, but there was still more drama. Galway came again, Tomo Culhane had a chance to win it with a free under the Cusack Stand. It was a tough kick for a more experienced kicker than a tender minor. Culhane took aim, but was just off target, and the game was heading for extra-time.

The first half of this game belied what was about to come in the manic moments at the end of normal time. Galway snatched a few half chances and hawk-eye was called into operation for a Cork effort, before Culhane chalked up the first score of the day after seven minutes.

Conor Corbett, who finished the day with 1-7 from play, levelled the game with a close-range effort from play on nine minutes, and he followed up with a whipping effort to put Cork into the lead a minute later.

Galway responded by reeling off the next three scores, all coming from Culhane - two from play - the second of those a particularly fine effort, and the third from a placed ball. Although Michael O'Neill closed the gap to a single point 17 minutes in, Galway went two clear again, thanks to a Daniel Cox effort.

Galway grip

The Maigh Cuilinn man made it 0-6 to 0-3 with his second point of the day five minutes from the break as Galway looked to have a grip on the game and their defensive line was putting in a serious shift to keep check on the Cork attack. There was still time for both sides to tag on two points each before the break - Culhane tapped over a free for Galway and Nathan Grainger grabbed his first, while Corbett and Darragh Cashman pointed for the Rebels. But it was Galway who led 0-8 to 0-5 at the short whistle.

Culhane continued after the break with a close-range free after Cox was fouled as he shaped to shoot and, although Galway got a sniff of a goal chance three minutes in when Culhane got in behind the defence, his effort was well saved by Cian O'Leary in the Cork goal. Cork cut the gap back to three points four minutes into the half through a fine score by Patrick Campbell.

If the first half had been slow burning, the game then ignited as Galway went four clear again as Culhane tapped over his seventh, another free after Grainger had been fouled.

But from the next play Cork worked it down the middle of the field. Michael O'Neil showed great strength to hold off two challenges before handpassing the ball to Jack Cahalane behind the cover, and he shot low on the turn to bring it back to a one-point game.

The contest was level not long after when Darragh Cashman curled over a long-range effort, and Cork edged in front just before the 40 minute mark through a Corbett point.

Galway were back level through a Grainger effort two minutes later before Culhane kept his nerve to push Galway back in front from a free after a powerful run by Cian Hernon who broke through two Cork defenders with ease. However Michael O'Neill slotted a free for Cork to tie it once more at 0-12 to 1-9 before Corbett and Jack Cahalane hit quick-fire points to push Cork back into the lead with six minutes of normal time.

Galway, however, would not go away. Daniel Cox, after picking up the ball 35 metres out, drove through the Cork defence and unleashed a powerful shot that flew past O'Leary into the Cork goal, putting Galway 1-12 to 1-11 up. Yet again Cork levelled through Michael O'Neill as the game edged towards injury time.

Cunningham goal

Culhane put Galway back into the lead from a free after Warren Seoige was fouled, but that advantage lasted less than a minute as Cork sub Luke Murphy levelled with 62 minutes gone.

When Darragh Kennedy took off on a run down the Hogan Stand side of the field, he showed brilliant awareness to flick the ball on to Niall Cunningham. The safe option looked to be for Cunningham to punch the ball over the bar, instead he drove forward before lashing the ball home.

It looked like the winner for Galway, but Cork sent the ball down field in quick-smart style and when it ended up in Corbett's hands, he delivered it to the back of the net to level it yet again.

Culhane did have a difficult chance to win it in the dying embers of the battle as extra-time beckoned, but the killer blow came from the throw-in, Kelan Scannell won the ball, played it in Michael O'Neill, who then found Ryan O'Donovan to rattle home Cork's third goal.

It knocked the stuffing out of a tiring Galway side as Cork went on to add four more points before the change over in extra time. Galway, only able to respond with a single Culhane free, found themselves trailing 3-17 to 2-14 ahead of the final 10 minutes.

Galway gave it their all in that second period of extra time, but they could only muster a single score - a second goal from Cunningham - while Cork kickrd three points to run out 3-20 to 3-14 winners.

Heartbreak for Galway then, who for the second year in a row were beaten in the All Ireland final.

Galway: Donie Halleran; Jonathan McGrath, Ruairí King, Liam Tevnan; Cian Hernon, Ethan Fiorentini, Kyle O’Neill; James McLaughlin, Daniel O'Flaherty; Evan Nolan, Warren Seoige, Dylan Brady; Nathan Grainger (0-02 ), Tomo Culhane (0-10, 7f ), Daniel Cox (1-02 ). Subs: Conal Gallagher for O’Flaherty (52 ), Niall Cunningham (2-00 ) for Grainger (55 ), Darragh Kennedy for Nolan (55 ), James Webb for Hernon (57 ), Mark Colleran for Brady (65 ), Alan Naughton for Cox (77 ), Daniel McNulty for O’Neill (77 )

Cork: Cian O'Leary; Adam Walsh-Murphy, Daniel Linehan, Daniel Peet; Darragh Cashman (0-02 ), Neil Lordan, Joseph O’Shea; Jack Lawton, Kelan Scannell; Hugh Murphy, Conor Corbett (1-07 ), Eoghan Nash; Michael O’Neill (0-06, 2f ), Patrick Campbell (0-01 ), Jack Cahalane (1-01 ). Subs: Seán Andrews for Peet (34 ), Nathan Gough for O’Shea (45 ), Luke Murphy (0-01 ) for Nash (50 ), Ryan O’Donovan (1-02 ) for Cahalane (60 ), Tadhg O’Donoghue for Walsh-Murphy (68 )

Referee: N Mooney (Cavan )


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