By Jackie Cahill at O’Connor Park, Tullamore
CORK ARE THROUGH to an EirGrid All-Ireland U21 football final showdown with Mayo on 30 April.
The Rebels, who last won this title in 2009, are back in the showpiece decider for the first time since 2013 after holding off Monaghan by two points at O’Connor Park in Tullamore this evening.
Ultimately, it was Ryan Harkin’s first-half goal that proved decisive as it opened up a matchwinning buffer that the Rebels would not relinquish.
They led by just a point at half-time, and again early in the second half, but the Leesiders were four points clear on three occasions in the second half, before clinging on to oust Ulster champions Monaghan.
Barry McGinn, scorer of 1-6, enjoyed a remarkable first half for Monaghan but was held to just a single point in the second half, a late free, as Cork battened down the hatches.
Cork lost Brian Coakley to a black card in the second half, and saw Seán Powter’s effort deflect off the post with 10 minutes left, but still had enough in reserve to get the job done.
Cork led by a point at the end of a first half that saw all but one score converted from play.
McGinn was the standout performer for Monaghan, registering 1-5 of Monaghan’s first half tally as they trailed by a point at the break, 1-9 to 2-7.
The sides were level three times in the early exchanges before the only pointed free of the first half, from McGinn, edged Monaghan ahead.
The game then exploded into life with two goals in as many minutes, Cork senior star Peter Kelleher netting from close range after Seán Powter shovelled the ball across the face of goal, before McGinn responded in the 13th minute with a rising drive into the top corner.
Donal Meegan pointed Monaghan two clear before Cork were denied a second goal when Seán O’Donoghue and Brian Coakley were kept out in quick succession, before Conor Forde tipped Harkin’s effort onto the crossbar and over.
Coakley levelled matters at 1-5 apiece and but Cork were soon four points clear as outstanding wing-forward O’Donoghue raised a white flag before Harkin netted.
It was a fluid Cork move that led to Harkin’s major as captain Stephen Cronin, Kelleher, Coakley and Michael Hurley were all involved before Harkin supplied an angled finish.
That goal handed Cork a 2-6 to 1-5 lead but Monaghan, with McGinn very much to the fore, cut the half-time deficit to just the bare minimum.
They couldn’t restore parity during the second half, however, as Cork subs Ronan O’Toole and Stephen Sherlock came off the bench to not only provide energy, but a point apiece.
Scorers for Cork: Ryan Harkin 1-1, Seán O’Donoghue 0-4, Peter Kelleher 1-0, Seán Powter & Michael Hurley 0-3 each, Brian Coakley 0-2, Ronan O’Toole & Stephen Sherlock 0-1 each.
Scorers for Monaghan: Barry McGinn 1-6 (0-2f), Feargal McMahon & Conor McCarthy (1f) 0-3 each, Conor Forde (f), Dessie Ward, Ryan McAnespie & Donal Meegan 0-1 each.
1. Anthony Casey (Kiskeam)
2. Michael Mc Sweeney (Newcestown)
3. John Mullins (Eire Og)
4. Dylan Quinn (St Finbarrs)
5. Kevin Flahive (Douglas)
6. Stephen Cronin (Nemo Rangers)
7. Kieran Histon (Cobh)
8. Sean White (Clonakilty)
9. Sean O Leary (Bantry Blues)
10. Seán O Donoghue (Inniscarra)
11. Seán Powter (Douglas)
12. Ryan Harkin (Mallow)
13. Brian Coakley (Carrigaline)
14. Peter Kelleher (Kilmichael)
15. Michael Hurley (Castlehaven)
20. Eoin Lavers (Dohenys) for O’Leary (half-time)
17. Ronan O’Toole (Éire Óg) for Quinn (41)
21. Stephen Sherlock (St Finbarr’s) for Coakley (b/c 45)
22. Dan Ó’ Duinnín (Cill na Martra) for Harkin (55)
24. Cian Dorgan (Ballincollig) for Powter (60+1)
1. Conor Forde (Scotstown)
2. Barry Kerr (Cremartin)
3. Mikey Murnaghan (Donaghmoyne)
4. Kevin Loughran (Monaghan Harps – captain)
5. Dessie Ward (Ballybay)
6. James Mealiff (Clones)
7. Niall Rooney (Truagh Gaels)
8. Niall Loughman (Carrickmacross)
9. Aaron Lynch (Carrickmacross)
10. Ryan McAnespie (Emyvale)
11. Barry McGinn (Doohamlet)
12. Donal Meegan (Inniskeen)
15. Fearghal McMahon (Monaghan Harps)
14. Conor McCarthy (Scotstown)
19. Adam Treanor (Traugh Gaels)
17. Francis Maguire (Scotstown) for Treanor (17)
20. Aodh Curran (Clontibret) for Lynch (35)
18. Barry McBennett (Doohamlet) for McMahon (40)
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).
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