Cork players celebrate after victory over Limerick in the Bord Gáis Energy Munster U-20 Hurling Final.
Cork players celebrate after victory over Limerick in the Bord Gáis Energy Munster U-20 Hurling Final. 

Cork pip Limerick in thrilling Munster U-20 Hurling Final

Bord Gáis Energy Munster U-20 Hurling Final


Cork advanced to a Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U20 Hurling Final meeting with Galway as they prevailed in Wednesday night’s Munster decider at Páirc Uí Chaoimh despite a late Limerick surge.

Having led by two points at half-time after playing against the wind, Cork slowly pulled clear in the second half and were six ahead, 1-23 to 0-20 following a 52nd-minute point from sub Ben Cunningham.

However, Limerick refused to yield and were back in contention when Bryan Nix’s perfect pass allowed Diarmuid Hegarty – younger brother of Gearóid – to find the net. Cathal O’Neill’s 13th, 14th and 15th points of the night brought Limerick level and they might even have gone in front for the first time since late in the first half.

Cork, crowned 2020 All-Ireland champions at the beginning of the month, had shown battling qualities to see off Tipperary in their Munster semi-final a week ago and the same steeliness was evident here as the tireless Sam Quirke set up Pádraig Power to put them back in front and then Darragh Flynn landed his fifth point from play of the second half and 12th in all. O’Neill did give Limerick some hope with his 16th point but it proved to be his last as Cunningham made the game safe for Cork at the death.

With the wind, Limerick led for much of the first half, though Power’s second-minute goal did put Cork 1-0 to 0-2 in front. With O’Neill deadly from frees and Hegarty also threatening, Limerick were 0-8 to 1-4 ahead after a purple patch coming up to the first-half water-break and it was 0-11 to 1-5 by the 21st minute.

Cork, inspired by Brian Hayes and Jack Cahalane, turned the screw from there, though, and Flynn’s frees saw them move into a 1-13 to 0-13 lead as half-time approached, O’Neill’s ninth of the ninth leaving two in it at the break.

In the third quarter, Cork looked to have seized control and early points from Power and Cotter gave them a platform but a combination of a failure to take goal chances and Limerick’s doggedness ensured that the lead stayed between three and four.

Cork finally moved five ahead on 41 minutes, Power with a point after being denied a goal by Limerick full-back Pádraig Harnettt, but still they couldn’t shake off their opponents.

Not even a six-point advantage was enough to make things safe as Limerick continued to plug away, but when it came to it Cork dug deep to take the honours and a place in the final on August 7/8.

Scorers for Cork: Darragh Flynn 0-12 (0-7f), Pádraig Power 1-5, Brian Hayes, Robbie Cotter, Jack Cahalane, Ben Cunningham 0-2 each, Brian O’Sullivan 0-1.

Scorers for Limerick: Cathal O’Neill 0-16 (0-15f), Diarmuid Hegarty 1-3, Adam English, Aidan O’Connor 0-2 each, Bryan Nix 0-1.

CORK: Cathal Wilson; Cormac O’Brien, Dáire O’Leary, Eoin Downey; Kevin Moynihan, Ciarán Joyce, Ethan Twomey; Sam Quirke, Brian O’Sullivan; Darragh Flynn, Daniel Hogan, Brian Hayes; Robbie Cotter, Pádraig Power, Jack Cahalane. Subs: Ben Cunningham for Hogan (42), Cillian O’Donovan for O’Leary (50, injured), Micheál Mullins for O’Sullivan (53), Luke Horgan for Cotter (53),

LIMERICK: Conor O’Neill; Chris Thomas, Pádraig Harnett, Michael Keane; Emmet McEvoy, Colin Coughlan, Cormac Ryan; Jimmy Quilty, Cathal Downes; Adam English, Cathal O’Neill, Diarmuid Hegarty; Bryan Nix, Aidan O’Connor, Ronan Fox.

Subs: Ethan Hurley for Ryan (33), Fergal O’Connor for Keane (41), Patrick Kirby for Downes (43), Eddie Stokes for Fox (53).

Referee: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary).