All-Ireland U17 semi-final: Cork v Galway, Semple Stadium, 7.30pm
CORK have an opportunity to participate in the first ever All-Ireland final at this level but they will face a strong Galway team in Thurles tonight.
However, the fact that they secured three wins to triumph in the Munster championship will probably have them going as favourites to advance to the final.
In that march through Munster, they defeated Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford and the team is highly regarded within the county.
Quite a few of the successful Munster minor team will be involved here with Daire Connery from Na Piarsaigh and Conor O’Callaghan the standout players.
Add in Aaron Walsh-Barry, Colin O’Brien, Declan Hanlon, Ronan Sheehan and Brian and Eoghan Roche and you have a very solid platform.
The side was excellently coached throughout that Munster campaign by John Considine alongside selectors Donal Burke and Sean Crowley and having already beaten three strong rivals to get to this All-Ireland semi-final took a lot of hard work.
They haven’t had a competitive game since the Munster final but they have continued to put in the hours on the training pitch when it was possible.
The management had challenge encounters against Kildare U21s, Kerry U21s, Midleton U21s and Cork U16s as well as other games.
Galway are coming in here without a competitive game under their belts and that may be something of a drawback.
However, quite a few of the team featured in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Saturday in the All-Ireland quarter-final win over Clare and they will backbone the team tonight.
Cork and Galway contested last season’s All-Ireland U16 final which was won by Cork under a management team led by John Meyler.
Galway are always strong at this level and a lot of emphasis is put in at development level.
It’s always difficult to make a meaningful assessment of the strength of Galway because of the fact that they don’t compete at provincial level in this grade or in minor.
But Cork have done as much homework as they can on them and there will be no shortage of confidence in John Considine’s team after that successful run through Munster.
Apart from the aforementioned Cork minor players on duty, you have some other very good hurlers on the starting block with Tommy O’Connell from Midleton a key player.
Add in Ciaran Nyhan from Courcey Rovers and Joe Stack from Castlemartyr and the balance to the team is good.
They are taking a bit of a trip into the unknown because of the fact that this Galway’s first competitive game.
However, on the evidence presented thus far in the provincial campaign and the astuteness of the management team, there is no reason why Cork cannot reach the All-Ireland final.
Connery has been starring for the minors and he will be a key figure for obvious reasons as will the Midleton player O’Connell.
They will relish the opportunity of playing on the lush sod of Semple Stadium and they get the vote to succeed.