Intermediate hurlers contest All-Ireland final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in their only game of season

Intermediate hurlers contest All-Ireland final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in their only game of season
Nicky Kelly, Mayfield, will be a key player this Sunday. Picture: Dan Linehan

All-Ireland IHC final, Kilkenny v Cork, Sunday, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2pm

THE honour of being the first Cork team to grace the new Pairc Ui Chaoimh falls to the Cork intermediate hurlers under their management team led by Ronan Dwane.

It will be a very unique occasion in more ways than one in so far as it will also be their first and only outing of the season.

The reason being that, alongside Kilkenny and Wexford, they were the only three counties to put forward a team for this competition.

There was no Munster championship to participate in and with Kilkenny getting the better of Wexford in Leinster last week, we now have one hour of hurling to decide the destination of the All-Ireland trophy.

Kilkenny, on the basis of having played a competitive game, might start as very slight favourites but this is very much a trip into the unknown.

Cork team boss Dwane, aware that there would be involved in just the one game, has tried to keep things ticking over and the team has played a number of challenge games.

They played the Cork under-21s recently and they also had games against Erin’s Own and Imokilly.

“We started preparations later for obvious reasons but we have a good bit done now and everybody involved is looking forward to the game.

“It’s going to be a great day for the players involved, they are the first Cork team to be given the opportunity of playing in the new stadium in front of a huge audience.

“It’s going to be very special day for those lads and to be playing Kilkenny adds to the occasion.’’ 

Cork intermediate hurling coach Ronan Dwane is hopeful his team can beat Kilkenny on Sunday.
Cork intermediate hurling coach Ronan Dwane is hopeful his team can beat Kilkenny on Sunday.

Dwane was in attendance last week when Kilkenny overcame Wexford in the Leinster decider and he was impressed with what he saw.

“Look, any time a Kilkenny team lines out you have good hurlers in action. I watched them in Nowlan Park against Wexford and they were strong around the field.

“They had a strong centre-back in Cormac Fleming and a good centre-forward too in Robbie Donnelly.

“That night they had good scoring returns from Darragh Brennan and Paul Holden and they were just too strong all over for Wexford.’ “They have that game behind them while we are going in without a competitive game.’’ 

The Cork boss and his selectors, Pat O’Connell and Peter Brennan has, however, a number of very good players at his disposal.

“We have good lads on the team and they are getting an opportunity to play in an All-Ireland final and and that does not happen too often and when you get that chance you must try and take it.’’ 

Mayfield duo, Nicky Kelly and Shane O’Donovan, stars of their All-Ireland JHC club title victory will be key players while Will Leahy from Aghada was a member of the senior squad last season.

Patrick Collins, the senior sub-keeper and U21 keeper will be in goal and he’s the only member of the U21s to play as they have a Munster final against Limerick next Wednesday night, while Danny Flynn from Charleville and Carrigaline's David Drake is also be involved.

“We have assembled a strong enough squad and they would all have been very active anyway with their clubs, Dwane told the Echo.

“As I said, it’s a big weekend for the GAA in Cork and for these lads it’s great to be part of it and it would be better again if we can win the trophy’’.

The All-Ireland IHC was first played for in 1961 and Wexford were the first winners, defeating London in the final.

In fact London were runners-up five times in a row.

Cork’s first win came in 1965 but the competition was suspended between the years 1974 to 1996.

They are going for their ninth title on Sunday and their last win in the competition was in 2014 under the captaincy of John O’Callaghan from Inniscarra. Among the Cork winning captains is former senior star Pat Mulcahy.

Kilkenny are going for their fifth title on Sunday and they are the holders of the title after beating Clare in 2016.

It remains to be seen now if this will be the last year of the competition given the lack of interest shown in it now by the other counties.

Verdict: Cork

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