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Cork managers, from left, Noel Furlong, U16, Donal Óg Cusack, minor, Kieran Kingston, senior, and Pat Ryan, U20, when they were appointed. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cork managers, from left, Noel Furlong, U16, Donal Óg Cusack, minor, Kieran Kingston, senior, and Pat Ryan, U20, when they were appointed. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
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Cork U20 hurlers simply focus on Kerry opener given the Covid uncertainty

MONDAY: Munster U20 hurling: Kerry v Cork, Tralee, 6.30pm.

A TRIP over the county bounds tonight into Austin Stack Park in Tralee to face Kerry is the first championship assignment awaiting new Cork U20 hurling boss Pat Ryan from Sarsfields.

Ryan will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sarsfields club man, Bertie Óg Murphy in bringing the All-Ireland trophy back to Leeside for the first time since 1998.

However, that’s well into the distance at this point in time and Ryan is not looking beyond this opening fixture with the Kingdom.

Cork will, obviously, be warm favourites to qualify for a tilt with Limerick in the semi-final on Bank Holiday Monday but when Ryan spoke to The Echo in advance of the game he said that it will be very much a case of taking every game as it comes along.

“Yes, Kerry are our opponents in the opening game so all our focus will be on them, getting a result in Austin Stack and moving on.

“We won’t know much about them but we recognise the fact that the county have won the last few All-Ireland U21 B titles and the current squad are players are training with the senior team under the management of Fintan O’Connor.

“No matter who you play now you show them respect and we will certainly be taking nothing for granted here.’’

Preparations for the game have gone well since the squad went back into training in September after the Covid restrictions up to then and a few useful challenge games were played.

“Our plan was to get together after the first round of the club championships back in April, build things up slowly but then the Covid crisis changed everything.

“We had played Waterford in a challenge game before everything stopped and all you could do then was keep in touch a few times with the lads through video calls.”

The club championships got the season up and running again and that provided Ryan and his management team Donal O’Mahony, Wayne Sherlock, Brendan Coleman and Imokilly county-winning boss Fergal Condon.

“Yes, we got to see a lot of players playing with their clubs before we recommenced training and certain players caught our eye.

“The plan was that all the club games would be out of the way before the provincial championship began but there’s still a few lads waiting to play a few finals with their clubs.

“Two of the lads on our panel. Ciaran Joyce and Darragh Moran have a county final to play with Castlemartyr but they don’t know when that will happen.

“I suppose it’s a case of seeing what is going to happen in the coming weeks with the Covid situation and all we can do is train away and hopefully go as far as we can in Munster and hopefully beyond.”

Ryan has what he believes is a very good squad at his disposal. Cork won the U17 All-Ireland three years ago.

“There’s a good bunch there alright. You have Conor O’Callaghan from Dromtariffe, Eoin and Brian Roche from Bride Rovers, Shane Óg Regan from Watergrasshill, Tommy O’Connell from Midleton, Sean Twomey from Courcey Rovers, Daire Connery, the Blarney lads Padraig Power and Shane Barrett.

“We have two goalies on the panel, Eoin Davis from St Catherine’s and Donal Maher from Douglas, they are just some of the lads involved.

“Things have gone well in training since we got back and the lads are eager now to get things started and get a championship game under their belt.

“We got to play very useful challenge games with Wexford, Tipperary and Galway and were due to play Kilkenny but that was called off.

“We have trained under the guidelines set out, ensuring that our players stay safe.”

Ryan would love to win an All-Ireland with his group but he realises that getting out of Munster is the only priority for the next couple of weeks.

“Exactly, we will have to win three matches in Munster to win that trophy and that certainly won’t be easy.

“Look, I am fortunate that I have an experienced group of selectors with me and between us all we’ll go out and do the best we can for the county.

“It starts on Monday in with Kerry, no looking beyond that.”

CORK (U20 hurling v Kerry): E Davis (St Catherine’s); C O’Callaghan (Dromtarriffe, c), E Roche (Bride Rovers), A Walsh Barry (Carrigtwohill); K Moynihan (Na Piarsaigh), C Joyce (Castlemartyr), D O’Leary (Watergrasshill); S Quirke (Midleton), B O’Sullivan (Kanturk); B Roche (Bride Rovers), T O’Connell (Midleton), E Carey (Kilworth); S O’Regan (Watergrasshill), A Connolly (Blackrock), C O’Brien (Liscarroll/Churchtown Gaels).

Subs: D Maher (Douglas), D Moran (Castlemartyr), L Ryan (Inniscarra), L Horgan (Glen Rovers), E Twomey (St Finbarr's), D Hogan (Sarsfields), J Cahalane (St Finbarr's), O McCarthy (Inniscarra), B Hayes (St Finbarr's).