Cork 1-24 Dublin 1-19
Cork secured their place in the All Ireland hurling final for the first time since 2006 after a 66th minute goal from Pat Horgan ended Dublin hopes just 15 minutes after Ryan O’ Dwyer was controversially and perhaps decisively sent off for a second yellow card.
The first half was as exciting a half of hurling as we have seen this year, even in a summer that has provided epic after epic as both sides were content to go toe to toe in a shootout. Liam Rushe was a colossus at centre back throughout and Cork must have tried at least four different players on him over the course of seventy minutes, with predictably similar outcomes. Cork struggled to win possession in the half forward line but despite this McLoughlin and Lehane knocked over three first half points apiece to keep nudging Cork ahead in a first half in which the sides were level ten times. Dublin looked to be in the ascendency after David Treacy kicked home the opening goal after some fine work from Paul Ryan but like Cork teams of the recent past they were content to keep tacking on points.
The second half was much tighter than the first but was no less gripping. Conal Keaney led the Dublin forward line and Danny Sutcliffe continued to find the range, hitting four stunning points in total in an impressive individual performance. The game turned in the 50th minute (the sides were level) when O’ Dwyer was deservedly booked a second time. He received his first yellow in the second minute for an innocuous tackle that was simply not a booking. Taking both fouls together, you would struggle to brandish a red card but O’ Dwyer was on a yellow and gave James Owens no option but to send him to the line, albeit ultimately harshly. Nash continued his fine point taking record this year and landed another couple from long range in the second half. Conversely Ryan had a poor day from placed balls, missing several at vital stages.
The sides played 15 on 15 in the first half but the sending off changed the dynamic of the game and resulted in a more tactical less free flowing affair. Dotsy bizarrely dropped into midfield ultimately culminating in his substitution and while he didn’t get much change out of Shane O’ Neill once switched to full forward from the corner, you felt he was still a danger having hit two early points. Cork adopted a short passing game with mixed success, playing five in the forward line and hitting several balls down onto the unmarked Niall Corcoran. The Rebels found things easier when reverting to a traditional six up front while retaining the luxury of the excellent Conor O’ Sullivan as a spare man in their full back line. The decisive moment came with just four minutes to go when Pat Horgan flicked the ball to the net as Gary Maguire was controlling the ball in his own square. It was an excellent piece of opportunism but the Ballyboden man will have regrets as will Peter Kelly for allowing the full forward a free run in at his goalkeeper.
The other major talking point was the failure of Owens to show Rushe the line at a time when the sides were level with fifteen minutes to go. The O’ Dwyer incident should have had no bearing on his later decision but it almost certainly did, tacit acknowledgement that the first yellow was harsh? It is not the referee’s job to facilitate open play, much as we would like. There is undoubtedly scope to let the game flow but his primary job is to protect the players and to assist a fair contest, anything else is a bonus.
This game was full of excellent performers in particular Rushe at centre half back and Shane O’ Neill who improbably almost exerted the same influence but from the confines of full back. Pat Horgan was quiet by his lofty standards but still managed an influential 1-2 from play. The sending off robbed us of the grandstand finish the game deserved and it swung this one in favour of Cork who may or may not have gone on to win this one regardless. I hope Daly is around next year to test the theory, his honesty and integrity have been yet another highlight in a summer of incredible hurling.