All-Ireland U21HC semi-final: Rebels ease into final

August 04, 2018

Cork's Conor Cahalane in action against Wexford in the All-Ireland U21HC semi-final at Nowlan Park ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

Cork are an hour from long-overdue U21 hurling championship glory after thumping Wexford by 3-26 to 0-13 at Nowlan Park.

It's been two decades since the Leesiders - eleven-time winners - contested a national final at this level and the decider will be played in three weeks' time, with opposition to be provided by either Galway or Tipperary, who are due to meet in the second semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds on Wednesday night.

This game was effectively over at the break as the Rebels led by 2-14 to 0-9, with swashbuckling full forward Tim O'Mahony netting both goals inside the opening eight minutes - the first after his own shot was saved, the second following a Jack Cushe save from Darragh Fitzgibbon. Declan Dalton registered seven times for the winners before the break, while Seamus Casey notched five of the Model County's first-half scores.

Casey (free) and Aaron Maddock points had the beaten Leinster finalists 0-2 to 0-1 ahead early on but O'Mahony's majors in the fifth and eighth minutes propelled the Munster champions into a lead that they were never likely to relinquish, with Dalton, Shane Kingston, Jack O'Connor, O'Mahony and Liam Healy tagging on points before the break.

With six men on duty who featured in last weekend's dramatic All-Ireland SHC semi-final defeat to Limerick after extra time at Croke Park, Denis Ring's charges pulled further clear courtesy of a lovely Kingston flick-and-finish 80 seconds after the restart and Dalton added a sublime point from the right wing on 34 minutes to leave 13 points between the teams.

Damien Reck replied to another superb Kingston score and a vital Niall O'Leary intervention denied Wexford a goal before O'Mahony turned provider, taking a hit as he scooped the sliothar through to Healy to plant the ball in the back of the Model net for the third time on 39 minutes - 3-17 to 0-10.

A magnificent Casey long-range missile kept the losers ticking over but O'Connor replied on the stroke of 45 minutes, substitute Conor Cahalane (0-4) tagging on the 19th Cork point before play was held up for six minutes due to a knee injury to the influential Dalton, who could struggle to be fit for the final. The Fr O'Neills clubman had eight points to his credit when he was forced out of the action.

Conor Hearne and Aaron Myers (free) traded scores and further Cork points followed from Man of the Match O'Mahony - a stunner from distance on the sideline - and Cahalane (2) as the gap went out to 20 points with 62 minutes gone. Seven minutes of injury time were added in total but the game was long since over as any sort of meaningful contest.

Cahalane and fellow substitute Chris O'Leary added to the winners' swelling tally and Myers clipped over a free to close the scoring after Rowan White had pulled back a late consolation for the Model County, who - missing senior star Rory O'Connor - couldn't reach the same heights that saw them take Galway to extra time in an epic Leinster final last month.

Cork - G Collins; D Lowney, E Murphy, N O'Leary; J Cashman, G Millerick, B Hennessy; M Coleman, D Fitzgibbon; R O'Flynn, D Dalton (0-8, 6f), S Kingston (0-4); L Healy (1-1), T O'Mahony (2-2), J O'Connor (0-4). Subs: C Cahalane (0-4) for G Millerick, A Myers (0-2f) for D Dalton, D Connery for D Fitzgibbon, C O'Leary (0-1) for S Kingston, C O'Callaghan for M Coleman.

Wexford - J Cushe; S Reck, D Byrne, E Molloy; C Firman, I Carthy, R White (0-2); A Maddock (0-2), G Molloy; O Foley, D Reck (0-2), L Stafford; M Dwyer, R Higgins, S Casey (0-6, 3f, 1sl). Subs: S O'Gorman for S Reck, D Codd for L Stafford, C Hearne (0-1) for O Foley, E Kelly for R Higgins, J Donohoe for D Byrne

Referee - A Kelly.

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