The Tom Markham Cup is residing in Ulster for a third successive year after Tyrone held off a determined Cork fight back to win the All Ireland minor title at Croke Park last Sunday afternoon.
It was a cracking contest between two well drilled sides and in the end the Red Hands just about justified their favourites tag to win the county’s fourth All Ireland minor crown in the past ten seasons. A goal from midfielder Harry Og Conlon helped Tyrone lead by four points at the break and when they stretched their advantage to 1-12 to 0-7 with less than ten minutes to play they looked to be home and dry.
This Cork side though had left it late in their previous three championship games before coming back to win and they staged a superb comeback with Kevin Hallissey bagging a goal and Dan McEoin kicking a number of fine points but with the Red Hands on the rack Ronan O’Neill scored a crucial late point and they held on in a frantic finish.
Tyrone completely dominated the opening twenty minutes of the game and by the time that Cork struck their first score they were already 1-5 to 0-0 adrift. Half backs Niall Sludden and Eunan Deeney hit points with man of the match John McCullagh weighing in with a superb brace.
In the 20th minute Tyrone struck for their goal when a brilliant pass from O’Neill saw Conlon get a flick to it and even though Cork keeper David Hanrahan saved it the rebound fell to the midfielder who slammed it to the net. Brian Hurley finally opened the Munster champions’ account and McEoin and Hallissey tagged on further scores with the latter’s fierce drive just clearing the crossbar. It was Tyrone though who had the final say of the opening period through centre half back Michael Donaghy as they led 1-6 to 0-5 at the break.
McCullagh and O’Neill added quick points on the restart with McEoin and John O’Rourke responding for Cork. Ryan Devlin, Conlon, McCullagh and Conan Grugan then all scored points for the Ulster champions and at this stage Cork looked a beaten side. They rolled up their sleeves though to make a real game of it in a thrilling finale. McEoin kicked another point before Hallissey took a pass from Hurley to finish in style low to the bottom right hand corner of the net past Tyrone keeper Colm Spiers.
There were only five minutes left to play and it was Cork who had all the momentum now. A McEoin point came either side of an O’Rourke brace and all of a sudden just the minimum divided the two sides. Tyrone had a great chance to finally wrap up the game when Conlon raced clear but he was denied by keeper Hanrahan although crucially O’Neill pointed from the rebound. Cork threw everything forward in a last ditch attempt to salvage the game and although McEoin hit his fifth point of the game it was Tyrone who held on to emerge as All Ireland minor champions.
Tyrone – Colm Spiers, Shea McGarrity, Conor Clarke, Hugh Pat McGeary, Niall Sludden, Mickey Donaghy, Eunan Deeney, Harry Og Conlon, Conan Grugan, Richard Donnelly, Thomas Canavan, Ryan Devlin, Stefan Tierney, John McCullagh, Ronan O’Neill.
Subs – Padraig McNulty for Mickey Donaghy, Liam Girvan for Ryan Devlin, Dara Donnelly for Stefan Tierney
Cork – David Hanrahan, Kevin Fulignati, Matthew O’Shea, Alan Cronin, Conor O’Sullivan, Tomas Clancy, Jamie Wall, Jamie Burns, Damian Cahalane, John O’Rourke, Mark Sugrue, Dan McEoin, Kevin Hallissey, Tom Hegarty, Brian Hurley. Subs – Daniel Fitzgerald for Tom Hegarty, Luke O’Connolly for Mark Sugrue, David O’Donovan for Kevin Fulignati, Stephen O’Mahony for Conor O’Sullivan, Kevin Sheehan for John O’Rourke
Tyrone scorers – John McCullagh 0-4, Harry Og Conlon 1-0, Ronan O’Neill 0-2, Conan Grugan 0-2, Niall Sludden 0-1, Mickey Donaghy 0-1, Eunan Deeney 0-1, Thomas Canavan 0-1, Ryan Devlin 0-1
Cork scorers – Dan McEoin 0-5, Kevin Hallissey 1-1, John O’Rourke 0-3, Brian Hurley 0-3