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James Keating of Cork wins possession ahead of Seán Ryan of Kilkenny. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
DT
James Keating of Cork wins possession ahead of Seán Ryan of Kilkenny. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
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U20 hurling captain Keating is thrilled to have a second crack at Tipperary

THE potency in the Tipperary U20 hurlers forward unit has been well documented — they have scored 14 goals on their way to next Saturday’s All-Ireland final against Cork.

Therefore, it goes without saying that the young Rebels defence will really have to be on top of its game if that tally is not to be added to.

And there is every reason to believe that can be achieved, given how well that rearguard has performed in a lot of their games this season, particularly in the semi-final win over Kilkenny.

Team captain James Keating from Kildorrery stands on the edge of the square in the number three jersey and he’s hoping for another clean sheet on Saturday, which was the case in Portlaoise against the Leinster champions. A product of Mitchelstown CBS, he had Cork senior goalkeeper Anthony Nash among his mentors.

“Anthony was in the school, he was training us a lot, Willie Duggan as well, both were huge influences on me in fairness.

“Playing schools hurling opens you to other players in the county and outside. In 2016 we got to the B Munster final, we lost that and then when I was in sixth year we won it for the first time in the school and that was massive.”

In Kildorrery too there was no shortage of influence.

“Yes, I suppose you had Peter O’Brien and Mikey Walsh, they played senior with Cork and it was great to have those two lads there when I came in training with the intermediates.

“You’d look up to them and realise what you had to do to get up to that level.

“I started up in the national school and you had Ellen Downey there and the primary games was the first time I went up to Cork for trials.

“That really started it and earlier on you had Pat Spratt coming to the school and my father at home, Sean, who was involved heavily at underage so there were plenty of people involved early on.’’

His roots are very important to him and he sees it as a big honour for the club to be leading Cork out in an All-Ireland final.

“For a small club it’s nice to have someone as captain and for the lads at home that’s something to strive for.

“Other players from other clubs too, they can get to captain Cork teams.’’

Apart from the one loss in the Munster final, the positives have been plenty en-route to Saturday’s decider.

“I suppose the first night against Limerick we did not know what to expect. With some of the boys in the senior panel, it was the first time we had everybody together.

“We kind of grew into it from game to game. Against Limerick and then Clare it wasn’t until the last 10 minutes that we pulled away in the end.

“Obviously, after the Munster final we were gutted but we knew we might get another crack off them.

“It was great to have that cushion of getting another opportunity if we lost the Munster final. We did go gung-ho for that game and we were gutted, but we had to get the heads focused again for the Kilkenny game.

“That was massive, getting over that one. When we got back to the dressing room after losing to Tipperary a lot of fellows said there was no point in feeling sorry for ourselves.

“We knew we would be facing another massive game in the semi-final fairly soon afterwards.

“We also knew there had been nothing between ourselves and Tipp and we now have that second chance.”

He is delighted to be part of what is regarded as one of the best defensive formations in the grade and was delighted with how the Kilkenny game went.

“The six of us have been together for a while now. Even in minor five of us were there and Rob Downey was up in the forwards.

“We have played a lot together and we trust each other a lot. The big difference against Kilkenny was that the forwards worked very hard and the work-rate up there was massive which made it that bit easier for us.’’

And now it’s Tipp again.

“Definitely, after we had beaten Kilkenny on the Saturday we wanted Tipp to beat Wexford the next day to get another crack off them.

“We don’t need any motivation going into it and you’d hope it will be like last year, we beat them in Munster and they beat us afterwards so, hopefully, for us now it will be the same.’’