Minors devastated after epic final clash

When Niall Cunningham rattled the back of the net three minutes into injury time in Croke Park on Sunday, one could easily forgive manager Dónal Ó'Fátharta for thinking that in less than a hour he would be sitting in the Croke Park museum auditorium reflecting on a famous victory for Galway in the most dramatic of circumstances. Alas the football gods did not see it that way.

His battling Galway minor footballers went from elation to devastation in a matter of minutes.

"Numb" and "devastated", were Ó'Fátharta's understandable initial thoughts.

"My initial thoughts are I'm devastated for the guys, for ourselves. For the older lads it is going to be tough to take, and seeing them on the pitch there and the way it happened, they are devastated.

"The boys are in there [dressing room], they are numb. They can't move, they can't believe it."

Ó'Fátharta has urged his young charges to try to be positive, despite the result.

"But look at it, they were there, it was almost there for them. It will be difficult for them to take, and we spoke to them about that and to mind themselves and to be as positive as we can over the next while, and hopefully their friends and family will obviously rally around them.

"They are only 16 and 17-year-old guys, and it's tough on me, it is devastating. But look, it is sport and Cork deserved it."

When Cunningham hit the back of the net, Ó'Fátharta hoped his side had done enough.

" I didn't know the time that was left, but I had a feeling that we were probably over the line maybe. But look, one quick kick out, it went over the top and we were a little bit exposed, and we had worked on that because Cork were strong around the middle, but it must have been in the stars for Cork today because we were very, very close.

"Our guys showed great resilience, because we got hit for a goal - two in the second half - and they came back. They have shown resilience all year. It is hard on them now, but they will need to move on and take the positives from it."

Cork hit Galway hard in the opening few minutes of extra-time which decided their fate, but there was no sense Galway was rattled at the end of normal time.

"Not really no. We asked a few guys if they were OK physically and they seemed fine, no signs, but we didn't notice anything. But Cork keep coming. They are physically very strong, our guys' tackling wouldn't be as big as them. It will take its toll after a while, they got the goal at the start and after that and what happened at the end of 60 minutes, that probably had an effect on them - it was difficult to spot, it obviously had an effect on them, it had an effect on us all."

Ó'Fátharta was also full of praise for the victors.

"Cork have been unlucky over the last few years when you look at the draw in Munster, and they deserved it, they are a fine team. It is just testament to our guys that we kept them out for 60 minutes and had the winning of the game. When you see Michael O'Neill, Conor Corbett, super footballers, and Ryan O'Donovan coming off the bench, that is a quality Cork team and it showed it there at the end.

"They are deserving winners, they are a super team, and it takes a super team to win an All Ireland. Kerry have been doing it the last while, and Cork are a very, very good team. I think we are good as well, don't get me wrong, but look, we just didn't get over the line. We are devastated, but we will get on with it."


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