FOR young players, a last-gasp defeat in a provincial final can be a shattering experience, all the more so if there was no avenue of redemption open to them.
For the Cork U20 hurlers that would have been the case a few years ago after their one-point loss to Tipperary last Tuesday week.
But it’s a different scenario now and the grade which was formerly U21 now gives beaten provincial finalists the opportunity to make amends in the All-Ireland series which begins with an All-Ireland semi-final against the Leinster champions Klkenny in Portlaoise on Saturday at 2pm.
Tipperary made full use of their second chance last season when they bounced back after their Munster final loss to Cork to defeat the same opponents a few weeks later in the All-Ireland final.
Cork were shattered after that loss to the Premier County in Thurles but, according to team boss Denis Ring, they quickly got it out of their system, believing that they are more than good enough to redeem themselves on the national stage.
“It was very disappointing to lose the Munster final in the manner that we did but it would have been worse if it had been a knockout game and we had no second chance.
“It would have been worse too if we had not played well in that final but the lads gave a great account of themselves and were desperately unlucky to lose with almost the last puck of the game.
“But they are very good lads and we had a recovery session the next day which was followed by a review meeting and some video analysis and we took a lot of positives from the performance.”
The Cork team boss is hoping that the theory that sometimes you learn more from a loss than you do from a victory. “It’s a case of you lose, you learn and we learned an awful lot from the loss to Tipperary. One of them was that we hurled very well against Tipperary and, whilst we lost, it’s still there for us.
“That certainly softened the blow for us. We got a big game from Ger Millerick, another game into him because at one stage earlier in the season we thought we might not have had him at all because of injury, that was very encouraging. It was disappointing to concede that late goal to them. We had five on three at the back but Jake Morris just got the break and to be fair he finished it well.
“But, look, there was hardly a puck of a ball between the teams and we know we have the capability to bounce back.
“You had the situation too that one of their points, again from Jake Morris was wide as TV evidence showed. But we are still there and we are delighted with that.”
Things won’t get any easier on Saturday when the Leinster champions Kilkenny come out of the opposition corner and Ring is under no illusions about the size of the task awaiting his players.
“We would have seen them four times this season already, we played them in a challenge game earlier and there was nothing in it but they had 15 wides that night and we had just five. They didn’t have Adrian Mullen in the Leinster final against Wexford but he’ll be playing here and we saw him last Saturday in Croke Park against Limerick and how good he is.
“They have other very good players like Eoin Cody, he played with Ballyhale Shamrocks in their All-Ireland club win, Niall Brassil who is a very good free-taker and Evan Shefflin, also of Ballyhale
“There’s a lot of movement in the side, they are strong and they have a good goalkeeper in Dean Mason but we’d like to think we have our homework done on them.”
And how does the Portlaoise venue appeal to him? “We would have had a preference for Thurles, it’s a bigger pitch but we’ll have strong support on the day with the footballers in the All-Ireland final. Kilkenny will have got a bounce from their seniors last Sunday and they are in the minor final as well. So these guys will not want to be left out but our job has been to prepare as best we can and we have the opportunity now to bounce back and have a go.
“We are looking forward to the challenge.’’