Munster MFC: Cork v Kerry, Páirc Uí Rinn, 7pm.
WHEN was the last time Kerry lost a provincial minor championship game?
Answer, April 24, 2013, when Cork won a quarter-final replay by 3-6 to 0-10 in Tralee. Even, six years ago, Kerry still regrouped to win Munster and their unbeaten run stretches to an amazing 30 games, culminating in five All-Irelands on the spin.
There’s a new format this year with the big two kept out of proceedings until now, where they will be joined by either Clare or Tipperary, who meet tonight in Limerick, in another group-phase.
Cork manager Bobbie O’Dwyer would prefer a round-robin for all the counties as is the way in the other provinces, but at least it’s an improvement because Cork now have two chances of reaching the final.
Next week, the losers face the winners of Clare-Tipp and on May 23 the winners of Cork-Kerry will be out again. The two top qualify for the final.
Twelve months ago, in the first U17 minor game Kerry pipped Cork by a point, 1-11 to 1-10 in Tralee.
“We’ve two players who started still available to us this year, Conor Corbett (Clyda Rovers) and Hugh Murphy (Éire Óg), and three more who were substitutes,” said O’Dwyer.
Corbett was Cork’s top scorer in that game, finishing with 1-4 and denied a second goal by the crossbar.
“Our preparations have gone well. We’ve a full panel with the usual small knocks and we’re all looking forward to the game.
“Playing at home should be an advantage but it’s about controlling our own performance against a good Kerry team and a county that has been very strong in colleges.”
Kerry schools dominated the senior and junior championships at secondary level and while the inter-county age change from 18 to 17 dilutes the Corn Uí Mhuirí to an extent Cork’s lack of success is still a worry.
The Kingdom have a new manager in James Costello, who takes over from Peter Keane, now sitting in the hottest seat of all at senior level.
Costello’s brief has changed in that Kerry are now placing an emphasis on producing more ‘rounded footballers’ to feed the county’s senior machine down the line rather than the sixth All-Ireland.
“I do think there is a realisation at county board level and in the Kerry public that we need to start looking more at trying to develop Kerry seniors rather than winning minor All-Irelands,” said Costello.
CORK (v Kerry): A O’Brien (Mitchelstown); N Gough (Bishopstown), D Linehan (Castlemagner), D Peet (Clonakilty); D Cashman (Millstreet), N Lordan (Ballinora), J O’Shea (Urhan); E Nash (Douglas), H Murphy (Éire Óg); A Walsh-Murphy (Valley Rovers), C Corbett (Clyda Rovers), D Collins (Glengarriff); R O’Donovan (Barryroe), P Campbell (Nemo Rangers), K O’Driscoll (Gabriel Rangers).
Subs: C O’Leary (Douglas), T O’Donoghue (Carrignavar), S Andrews (Shamrocks), S Bohane (Castlehaven), S Aherne (Douglas), J Cahalane (Castlehaven), A O’Hare (Douglas), J McGrath (Carrigaline), L Murphy (Cullen).