Munster U21 HC: Rebels stun Na Deise at the death

July 13, 2017

Tim O'Mahony of Cork

Declan Dalton's penalty in the sixth minute of injury time gave Cork a thrilling 2-17 to 1-19 victory over Waterford at Walsh Park.

The dramatic win has earned the spirited Rebels a date with Limerick in the provincial final in 13 days' time. The Leesiders now have the distinction of being Munster minor and senior hurling champions and under 21 finalists, all in the space of five unforgettable days.

Man of the Match Dalton, Cork's minor goalkeeper two years ago, who had already clipped over twelve points, demonstrated nerves of steel to step forward in the depths of additional time to drill a bullet of a shot to the left of Waterford netminder Billy Nolan (after substitute Jack O'Connor was dragged back by Darragh Lyons) to give his side the most thrilling of victories over the defending provincial and All-Ireland champions in front of 4,127 spectators.

Na Deise seemed to have done enough when their senior ace Shane Bennett netted eight minutes from time to propel them ahead for the first time since the opening minute and the hosts went on to lead by three points in stoppage time (thanks to three successive Patrick Curran points). A straight red card for their own senior star Darragh Fitzgibbon appeared to have subsequently hammered the last nail into Cork's coffin, but they pulled it out of the fire in sensational fashion to seal a date with the much-vaunted Treaty County at the Gaelic Grounds on Wednesday week.

Forced to field without highly-rated senior attacker Luke Meade, Cork had to dig deep and their clearly emotional manager John Meyler admitted after the final whistle that it was "probably robbery on Waterford". This was one of those game that nobody probably deserved to lose...

Rival sharp-shooters Dalton (1-12) and Curran (0-10) gave exhibitions of point-taking, but in the end it was the former who won that personal duel and the Rebel County who emerged victorious by the narrowest of margins, with Robbie O'Flynn supplying their first goal seven minutes into the second half.

Seven points from Dalton helped the Rebels take a 0-10 to 0-8 lead at the end of a hard-fought and highly-enjoyable opening period, but the hosts would have wind advantage when the action resumed.

Cormac Curran had Na Deise up and running inside 15 seconds but Dalton's brace edged the wind-assisted visitors ahead before a Patrick Curran free (after he had been fouled by David Griffin, who was yellow-carded) tied the scores up for the second time.

Dalton's stunning point from a sideline cut was cancelled out by the excellent Colm Roche (0-5) and the Cork centre forward's fourth point was followed by an exchange between Michael O'Halloran and Bennett before midfielder Paul Leopold and Dalton eased the visitors ahead by three points after 16 minutes, 0-7 to 0-4.

But the Suirsiders were level with five minutes left before the break thanks to points from Roche and Patrick Curran ('65', free). Dalton's sixth of the night restored Cork's advantage and midfielder Fitzsgibbon clipped over a stunning Cork point from distance before Roche replied in kind at the other end.

Jack Prendergast missed a chance to level the scores again and visiting corner back Sean O'Donoghue saw yellow for a hefty challenge on Bennett - who had earlier lit the first half up with an incredible solo run along the sideline - before Na Deise full back Conor Gleeson also went into referee Fergal Horgan's notebook for clattering into substitute Tim O'Mahony, with Dalton tapping over the resultant free to ensure John Meyler's charges of a two-point interval advantage, with Waterford's Shane Ryan unluckily hitting the left upright moments before the short whistle.

Patrick Curran's long-range free halved the deficit within a minute of the restart and he then tied the scores up before excellent points from Dalton (free) and Fitzgibbon restored the Leesiders' two-point advantage. Cormac Curran reduced the arrears with an excellent finish but the Rebels moved four clear in the 37th-minute when Erins Own clubman Robbie O'Flynn latched onto an O'Mahony offload to drill his shot past Nolan from close range to the roof of the Waterford net - 1-12 to 0-11.

Respective No.9s Fitzgibbon and Roche traded points and Patrick Curran's first score from play had the hosts back within the goal with 18 minutes left, 1-13 to 0-13. Waterford wing back Jordan Henley was booked for a wild pull on Dalton and the Cork No.11 exacted fitting retribution when he floated over the resultant free from the left wing, leaving four between them at the three-quarters stage.

When Billy Hennessy (yellow) felled Bennett in the 48th minute, Patrick Curran tapped over the free from close range and Roche then brilliantly smashed over his fifth point from tremendous distance to make it a two-point contest with little over ten minutes left to play…

Cork hit a couple of wides with the game hanging very much in the balance and they were left counting the cost of those misses when outstanding Na Deise full forward Bennett took a pass from substitute Andrew Casey to finish emphatically low to the net from close range on 52 minutes. Fitzgibbon was being forced to work very hard for frees but he eventually got one six minutes from the end, when dragged down by Conor Prunty (yellow), with Dalton equalising from the free.

But Patrick Curran's 56th-minute free had the home team back ahead, 1-16 to 1-15. Curran stroked over his ninth point from another free on the right in the 57th minute to double the difference and the unerring No.13 then hammered over an inspirational point from distance - his third in a row - two minutes from the end of normal time to give the hosts a three-point advantage.

Fr O'Neills man Dalton closed the gap in the 60th minute but Prendergast restored the winners' three-point cushion in the first of the five announced minutes of injury time. Yet another Dalton free flew into the wind and between the Waterford uprights in the 62nd minute and Cork's hopes seemed to have gone up in smoke when Fitzgibbon received a straight red card for pulling rashly across home custodian Nolan.

But we had the most dramatic finale imaginable when top scorer Dalton won it for Cork with the last strike of the game. As exciting a victory as the come; but the cruelest of exits for Sean Power's men.

Cork - P Collins; S O'Donoghue, E Murphy, D Griffin; B Hennessy, D Browne, M Coleman; P Leopold (0-1), D Fitzgibbon (0-3); C O'Leary, D Dalton (1-12, 0-8f, 0-2sl), A Myers; R O'Flynn (1-0), S Kingston, M O'Halloran (0-1). Subs: T O'Mahony for A Myers, E Healy for S O'Donoghue, J O'Connor for S Kingston, D Lowney for C O'Leary.

Waterford - B Nolan; D Prendergast, C Gleeson, D Lyons; J Henley, C Prunty, C Lyons; A Molumby, C Roche (0-5); J Prendergast (0-1), C Curran (0-2), S Ryan; P Curran (0-10f, 7f, 1'65), S Bennett (1-1), P Hogan. Subs: E O'Halloran for A Molumby, D Lynch for C Lyons, A Casey for C Curran, JP Lucey for S Ryan.

Referee - F Horgan.

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