Trailing by nine points after a nightmare start, you’d have been forgiven for concluding that it wasn’t to be Cork’s day in Portlaoise today.
Having conceded 1-6 without reply initially and looked down and out yet in what will go down as one of the great EirGrid U-20 football championship fight-backs, the Munster champions ultimately prevailed by eight points.
It amounted to a 17-point turnaround on the scoreboard and was made possible by first-half goals from Blake Murphy, Mark Cronin and Colm O’Callaghan that hauled Cork back from a tight spot.
And when the need was greatest, with the scores tied and 20 minutes remaining, they powered to a memorable win, outscoring Leinster champions Dublin by 0-10 to 0-2 in this blitzkrieg period.
A sea of red covered the Portlaoise pitch after the epic win as supporters celebrated a win for the ages.
But it was disappointment for a talented Dublin side who finished with 14 players following the 52nd minute second booking of Karl Lynch-Bissett.
We probably should have anticipated an epic given that when the sides met in early June in the development league – also in Portlaoise – it ended in a draw.
That John Kerins Cup game, by all accounts, was a cracker too and ended 1-18 apiece though, initially, it looked like Dublin might run away with this one.
They were that dominant and looked to have returned to the midlands venue armed with a far greater urgency than Cork.
Brian O’Leary kicked the opening score after just 23 seconds and the prolific Ciaran Archer, by far and away the most lethal finisher in the entire championship, added a point 60 seconds later.
Cork looked overwhelmed and fell 0-6 to 0-0 down before Archer swooped for a bizarre opening goal for Dublin.
It came in the 11th minute when the St Maurs man intercepted a short Cork kick-out and though his left footed shot from the left of goals was weak, it somehow sneaked through the ‘keeper’s legs.
Dublin were in dreamland with a 1-6 to no score lead yet just seven minutes later the teams were somehow level.
It was an emphatic response from Cork whose comeback was kick-started by Murphy’s 13th minute goal when he volleyed in from close range.
Cronin added a second goal in the 16th minute when he caught Cathal O’Mahony’s long delivery from the left at the far post and slammed home.
And they were remarkably level in the 18th minute when O’Callaghan finished a fine flowing move that involved Brian Hartnett and Daniel O’Connell with a blast from just yards out.
Cork enjoyed a huge vocal support with the county also contesting the earlier All-Ireland U-20 hurling semi-final and their fans raised the roof.
Now it was Dublin’s turn to be shell-shocked though, to their credit, they regrouped and the sides were level four times in total before the break.
Cork eventually took a two-point lead at the interval as they closed out the half with scores from Damien Gore, O’Mahony and O’Connell to lead 3-06 to 1-10.
Dublin restarted with two points from Archer and Brian O’Leary to level it for the fifth time in the game but it was all downhill from there for Tom Gray’s side.
In fact, they were outscored by 0-10 to 0-02 from there on as Cork sizzled with attacking intent and kicked some beautiful scores.
Gore was brilliant in this period while substitutes Jack Murphy and Fionn Herlihy also split the posts for eye-catching scores when they came on.
“Corcaigh abú are back baby!”