A COMFORTABLE win over Kerry for the Cork U20 hurlers in Austin Stack Park in Tralee on Monday night wasn’t a surprise.
However, the significance shouldn’t be overlooked: Ultimately, it means a semi-final away to Limerick which has since been deferred from Monday night, but even the fact that this team got to play a championship game together was an achievement of sorts. Despite their frustration now as we don't now when this grade will get the go-ahead to restart.
When the minor grade was changed from U18 to U17, this was the team that ‘missed out’. Had they been denied another chance to compete — for a very different reason — it would have been rough justice indeed.
In 2017, though, there was at least a consolation in that there was a national U17 competition and this side won, under the guidance of John Considine.
Now, with another Sarsfields man, Pat Ryan, in charge, they have taken their first steps towards what we hope will be more glory.
Just as the statistic about Cork not having won a minor All-Ireland since 2001 will be cited until it’s eradicated, so it is that the back-to-back victories in what was then the U21 grade, in 1997 and 1998, are a touchstone when evaluating why Cork don’t win senior All-Irelands anymore.
We’re aware that, simply by writing about it here, we’re adding another bit of petrol, however small, to a fire that doesn’t need any more encouragement.
At the bottom of it all, it is just talk and it wasn’t the weight of history that caused Cork to lose the last All-Ireland U21 final and first U20 one, to Tipperary, but until the spell is broken, the millstone remains.
And the droughts do end. Glen Rovers showed that in 2015, as they claimed a first county senior title since 1989, while Blackrock ended an 18-year wait when they saw off the Glen in the final just a few weeks ago.
Likewise, All-Ireland final defeats to Kerry in 2007 and 2009 didn’t terminate the belief within the Cork senior football camp that they could eventually go all the way and end a drought dating back to 1990. We digress, though.
With the U20 victory following the minor side’s win against Clare on Saturday, the outlook is bright.
The seniors begin their championship campaign against Waterford in Thurles on Halloween. Hopefully they'll progress to a Munster decider, with two our provincial final spots up for grabs yet for the minors and U20s.
While there is still a back door if Cork were to lose that game, it would be a case of having to play two rounds just to get to an All-Ireland quarter-final, whereas victory against the Déise would be huge, in that it would send them to the Munster final, with defeat there putting them in the quarter-finals or victory sending them to the semis.
All of this talk is, of course, dependent on how Level 5 proceeds and taking into account the possibility of an outbreak among the members of a team, which could render everything moot.
Still, given that there have been stages during the year when it seemed likely that there would be no GAA at all, to be in a position where the championships look like they will go ahead is far better than the alternative.
And, while there are suggestions that any titles claimed this year have an asterisk next to them, ultimately, the history books only carry the scorelines and the trophy tallies.
Cork’s All-Ireland win of 1941 — when the Munster final was delayed due to foot-and-mouth disease — isn’t discounted because they lost to Tipperary in the provincial decider at the end of October, while Meath are the 2010 Leinster football champions, even though Joe Sheridan dived over the Louth line with the ball.
All any of the teams can do is play the game in front of them — hopefully, those games will get to go ahead.