IT was absolute heartbreak for Kildare once again on Saturday when going under to a strong Cork side in the All Ireland Junior football final at Semple Stadium, Thurles.
And just like their senior counterparts against Donegal, the Junior boys gave it their all, looked at times to be on their way, looked at times to be struggling but in the end Cork came out the strongest in that dreaded extra time.
Tony Kelly’s lads lined out with two changes from the official programme with Johnny Browne failing a late fitness test being replaced by Tommie Archbold while Conor Murphy came in for Jamie Lambe.
The Lilies lined out with Tommy Moolick filling in for Browne at an unfamiliar wing back position for him while Archbold and Murphy took up their positions further up the field.
Cork opened the stronger and dominated early on but luckily for Kildare they found it difficult to find their range and throughout that opening 30 minutes kicked no less than nine wides.
The Rebels were two points up after nine minutes while it took The Lilies all of twelve before Tommie Archbold opened with a fine long range effort and within a minute the sides were level after great work by James Gately set up Ronan Walsh on the burst and the Cappagh man did the rest.
Cork continued to find it hard to convert their chances as the Kildare defence, particularly Kieran Fitzpatrick and Ronan Walsh were in top form. Kildare then took control and hit a purple patch hitting five points in a row from Darroch Mulhall and Conor Murphy, both set up by Matt Kelly while late call up Conor Murphy added the other three to leave Kildare in front 0-7 to 0-2 after 23 minutes.
Then with just two minutes to the break all that good work was undone when Cork capitalised on some sloppy defending that ended with Andrew O’Brien getting in behind the defence and cooly slipping the ball past the helpless Robbie Eyres in the Kildare goal. Within a minute Brian Coughlan added a point to leave Kildare leading 0-7 to 1-3 at the break.
Kildare captain, Kieran Kelly stretched that lead on the resumption as Kildare seemed to pick up once again with the full back line in particular sweeping up any Cork attacks. A brilliant Darroch Mulhall effort stretched the lead to three and the same player added another to leave his side leading 0-10 to 1-3 after 37 minutes, Cork having failed to score in the second half up to that point.
Cork however refused to lie down and with midfielder Daniel O’Donovan coming more into the game they hit back. The big no. 9 made a brilliant catch, off-loaded to Sean Kelly and the wing back burst forward to begin his side’s revival.
Within a minute Kevin Hallissey, kept under wraps up to now, began to have an influence. He raised a white flag on 40 minutes. Kildare had a goal chance when the ball went loose in the Cork square but Darroch Mulhall’s goal attempt was blocked.
Back came Cork with Andrew O’Sullivan setting up Brian Coughlan but the Bishopstownman had his effort foot blocked and Hallissey left just one between them from the resultant free.
Two minutes later and Hallissey had the sides level after a great individual effort and it did not take long before The Rebels took the lead, Hallissey converting a free on 48 minute.
Kildare looked shook at this stage, were in trouble around the middle and finding it difficult to find space for their inside men. However Eoghan Carew gained possession and hit a fine pass to Ciaran Kelly who turned and levelled them up again.
Goalkeeper Robbie Eyres kept Kildare’s hopes alive with a brilliant stop but the resultant ‘45’ was expertly converted by Dan O’Donovan.
Cork were now back in front and should have found the net with that man Hallissey cutting through the Kildare defence before blasting wide of the right hand upright.
The Lilies came back desperately seeking an equaliser, Conor Murphy was off target with a free some 46m out before substitute John Comerford found Conor Murphy who in turn passed to Tommy Moolick. The Leixlip man showed his undoubted class hitting a brilliant levelling point from distance.
It was now Kildare’s turn to seek a winner a point attempt was blocked but fell to Ciaran Kelly and the Moorefield man’s effort looked over but just at the last second drifted wide of the left hand post, soon to be followed by a missed free by Conor Murphy as the final whistle arrived and with it extra time.
On the resumption it was Cork who looked the more dangerous and a great move which began at the back by Enda Wiseman and involving three pairs of hands ended with Robbie Eyres again coming to Kildare’s rescue with a great stop, the resultant ‘45’ this time failed to find its intended target.
Then Cian Bolton took a quick sideline to Dan Campbell who was pushed, Ciaran Kelly took a quick free to Mark Fitzharris and the St. Kevin’s man had The Lilies back in front seven minutes into extra time but just on the break Liam Shorten had Cork back on terms as the sides went in level once again 0-13 to 0-10.
It was all to play for then in the final ten minutes of extra time. Cork had an early opportunity but a free failed to go between the posts while at the other end Eoghan Carew was desperately unlucky with a long range effort that just drifted left and wide,
Then with four minutes remaining Cork got the break through with Liam Shorten getting a vital point and while Eoghan Carew again missed the target it was Cork who had the final say with Kevin Hallissey getting the final point of the game to leave Cork winners on a score line of Cork 1-12 Kildare 0-13.
An absorbing game that could have went either way. Both sides had their chances and while Cork certainly missed a lot of earlier scores and carved out some excellent goal opportunities, nevertheless Kildare showed tremendous bravery and tenacity and at times, no shortage of skill.
The defence for long periods played excellent, keeper Robbie Eyres showed his class on at least two occasions while McEvoy and Walsh got forward at every opportunity; full back Kieran Fitzpatrick was my man of the match, despite a few slip-ups near the end. Matt Kelly set up a couple of fine scores and while Tommy Moolick looked a little out of position nevertheless scored a fine point.
Midfield of Paddy Dunne and Eoghan Carew had their moments but were up against a strong Cork pairing.
Up front Conor Murphy showed his class while Darroch Mulhall looked dangerous at times; team captain Ciaran Kelly tried everything he knew while Tommie Archbold and John Comerford also did well.
Overall a major disappointment but at the same time this experience will undoubted stand to these players in the years ahead. Make no mistake a couple of these lads have the talent and ability to progress to the senior team and that at the end of the day that is what this squad of players is all about.
Cork, Kevin Hallissey 0-5 (2 frees), Liam Shorten 0-5 (2 frees). Andrew O’Brien 1-0, Daniel O’Donovan 0-1 (45), Brian Coughlan 0-1, Richard O’Sullivan 0-1.
Conor Murphy 0-4 (1 free), Darroch Mulhall 0-3, Ciaran Kelly 0-2, Ronan Walsh 0-1, Tommie Archbold 0-1, Tommy Moolick 0-1, Mark Fitzharris 0-1.
Robbie Eyres (Clane); Dara McEvoy (Celbridge), Kieran Fitzpatrick (Kilcock), Ronan Walsh (Kilcock); Matt Kelly (Two Mile House), John Doyle (Ballymore Eustace), Tommie Archbold (Ballymore Eustace); Paddy Dunne (Athy), Eoghan Carew (St. Kevin’s); Conor Murphy (Clane), Tommy Moolick (Leixlip), Ciaran Kelly cpt. (Moorefield); Darroch Mulhall (Athy), Paddy Meagher (Leixlip), James Gately (Confey). Subs: Dan Campbell (Caragh) for Mulhall (blood sub 25-28 minute); Dan Campbell for Gately (45 minute); John Comerford (Maynooth) for Matt Kelly (50 minute); Jamie Lambe (Kilcullen) for Paddy Meagher (50 minute); Emmet Hyland (Castlemitchell) for Darroch Mulhall (55 minute); Mark Fitzharris (St. Kevin’s) for Eoghan Carew (62 minute); Paddy Meagher for Lambe (et 60 minute); Cian Bolton (Eadestown) for Archbold (et 60 minute); Eoghan Carew for Murphy (et 71 minute); Daroch Mulhall for Campbell (et 78 minute); Darren Barker (Kilcullen) for Doyle (et 78 minute).
Tom O’Connor; Enda Wiseman, Owen O’Mahony, Kevin Harrington; Sean Kiely, Richard O’Sullivan, AJ O’Connor; Andrew O’Sullivan, Daniel O’Donovan; Tom Clancy, Cathrach Keane cpt., Brian Coughlan; Kevin Hallissey, Andrew O’Brien, Liam Shorten. Subs: Bart Daly for Owen O’Mahoney (37 minute); Matthew Dilworth for Cathrach Keane (44 minute); Pat Gayer for AJ O’Connor (51 minute); Keane for Dilworth (70 minute); Peter Daley for Clancy (72 minute); AJ O’Connor for O’Sullivan (77minute)
Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary).