APART from the obvious of trying to be successful in the provincial and All-Ireland championships, the main objective at minor level is trying to lay a base for the higher grades of inter-county hurling.
Uppermost in that quest is getting as many out of the minor team that will go on to play at senior level.
In that regard the minor crop of 1995, now, of course, a quarter of a century ago was particularly successful.
Coached by Jimmy Barry-Murphy, they won the Munster and All-Ireland titles of that year and eight of the team went on to represent Cork at senior level, among them Donal Óg Cusack, Sean Óg Ó hAilpín, Joe Deane, Dan Murphy, Timmy McCarthy, Derek Barrett, Mickey O’Connell and Seanie O’Farrell.
Five of that group started in the famous All-Ireland senior win of 1999 and that was a very rich dividend to yield from minor team.
Apart from that, they were key members of Bertie Óg Murphy’s 1997 and 1998 All-Ireland winning U21 teams, Timmy McCarthy delivering a last-gasp goal in the 1997 Munster final against Tipperary.
In fact, you could say that the 1990s were very good to Cork hurling, a couple of minor titles, the U21 wins and culminating in the defeat of Kilkenny in the senior final.
Brendan Larkin was a selector on that 1995 minor hurling team alongside JBM as coach, Fr Denis Kelleher, Bobby Thornhill and Tom Cashman and he has happy memories of that year and of the squad of players at their disposal.
“I was fortunate to be involved with a great bunch of lads, I was a minor selector for 10 years and in that time we won two All-Ireland titles and lost two more.
“We had lost the final to Galway in 1994 when they got a late goal so to come back to win it a year later was very encouraging.
“When you are involved at that level you are always hoping that the players will graduate a few years later to senior level and that ’95 team had very good players, a lot of them forming the base for the successful senior years of 1999, 2004 and 2005.
“Minors can sometimes drift away for various reasons but Cork got a lot from that ’95 team.’’
Larkin tells an interesting story about the goalkeeping situation of that year.
“When we lost in 1994, young Derek Slattery from Fermoy was the sub goalkeeper and it was kind of thought he’d be the number one a year later.
“But Donal Óg Cusack and another lad were in contention as well and one Saturday the three of them went out to the Barrs for a session with Ger Cunningham and when it was done he suggested that Cusack was our man for the goalkeeping position.
“It turned out to be the right choice as Donal Óg went on to have a fantastic career with Cork afterwards. It was a hard decision for us at the time, though.
“Overall, though, it was a good team with Timmy Mac, Seán Óg, Joe Deane, Derek Barrett, Mickey O’Connell and Seanie Farrell going on to playing senior. Farrell won a league medal in 1998 and those lads were very good hurlers as they subsequently proved.”
Cork played four games in that 1995 campaign, defeating Limerick in the Munster semi-final and Waterford in the final, both being comprehensive wins.
They defeated Galway by two points in the All-Ireland semi-final and easily accounted for Kilkenny in the final on a scoreline of 2-10 to 1-2.
“Yes, apart from the Galway game, the other ones were not that difficult but, as I said, it was a very good team and hard to believe now that it was 25 years ago.”
And the influence of JBM.
“Jimmy was fantastic for those lads. He was very disappointed after losing in 1994 and thought about going forward again. Thankfully he did and as they say, the rest is history. The players would do anything for him, they idolised him and he was great for them and they were great for him.
“We got great support always from the county board, Frank Murphy, in particular. He always had a huge interest in the minors and would speak to them about the importance of what they were at and wearing the Cork jersey.
“It was great to be involved then and watching those lads develop into U21 and senior stars afterwards."
The successful Cork minor team of 1995 was:
Donal Óg Cusack (Cloyne); Alan Kelleher (Dungourney), Brian Kidney (Na Piarsaigh), Pat Walsh (Midleton); Derek Barrett (Cobh), Seán Óg Ó hAilpín (Na Piaraigh), John Dwyer (Ballincollig); Austin Walsh (Kildorrery), Dan Murphy (Ballincollig); Pat Mullaney (Midleton), Timmy McCarthy (Castlelyons), Mickey O’Connell (Midleton); Sean O’Farrell (Carrigtwohill), Joe Deane (Killeagh), Brian O’Keeffe (Blackrock).
Subs: Adrian Coughlan (Blackrock) and Darragh Cott (Midleton).