Cork and Tipp minors name their teams ahead of huge Munster showdown in Thurles

Cork and Tipp minors name their teams ahead of huge Munster showdown in Thurles

Craig Hanifin in action when he captained Na Piarsaigh to the U16 Rebel Óg Premier 1 title in 2015. Picture: Larry Cummins.

Éamonn Murphy

Hurling

ON one level, Cork would appear to hold all the aces in Thurles on Thursday night, 7.30pm.

There is a genuine buzz around hurling on Leeside these days, this is a gifted group of minors, the preparation under the guidance of manager Denis Ring and coach John Dwyer has been first class, and the law of averages alone dictates Cork are due a break at this level.

Yet doubts remain. A trip to Tipp is tricky at the best of times, even if Semple Stadium is a venue Rebels relish. And this is a Thursday night against a decent outfit who are shrewdly managed by Liam Cahill, who is aiming for his third successive Munster crown.

It's not solely down to bad luck and an unforgiving provincial structure that Cork haven't reached the Munster decider since their last victory in 2008. Potent teams led by attacking stars like Conor Lehane and Bud Hartnett (2010), Michael Cahalane and Pa O'Callaghan (2013), and Shane Kingston and Darragh Fitzgibbon (2015) have fallen at the semi-final hurdle.

Now to be fair Kingston was absent through injury two years ago, when Cork had arguably their most promising crop this decade, but there comes a time when excuses don't cut it anymore.

What's different this time you might ask? Yes, Evan Sheehan from Na Piarsaigh and Douglas' Brian Turnbull, unmarkable against Waterford in the opener back in the spring and top-class for his club last winter when they won an U21 county, are lethal weapons, but it'll take more than ability to negotiate this hurdle.

Douglas' Brian Turnbull breaks between Glen Rovers' Adam O'Sullivan and Liam Coughlan in last year's U21 semi-final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Douglas' Brian Turnbull breaks between Glen Rovers' Adam O'Sullivan and Liam Coughlan in last year's U21 semi-final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Cork actually rattled Tipp last season in Páirc Uí Rinn, Sheehan firing a couple of points off the bench early in the second half to put them in the driving seat. However when push came to shove the Premier took over in the air and bullied Cork on their own patch.

No one could lay a glove on Cahill's side after as they powered towards the All-Ireland, but the experience means the handful of survivors from the Cork team, as well as the management, must meet fire with fire this time.

The development squad structure appears to be working, given Cork won all seven of the available tournaments from U14 to U17 at A and B level in 2015, four of them last season, and the recent Munster U17 championship, introduced to cater for players who could miss out next year when the grade becomes exclusively for under 17s. These current minors have long been highly rated, going back to when Ger Cunningham, Cork legend and current Dublin boss, had them at U15.

Seán O’Leary-Hayes looks a real prospect in the defence and was on song for Midleton's seniors last weekend against Erin's Own, while Ross Howell cut an athletic figure at wing-back for Douglas' intermediates even in a loss to Ballincollig. A year younger, Dáire Connery, is a stylish but hardy midfielder. 

They deserve to play on the biggest stage and opening for the Cork seniors in the Munster final is just that. 

TIPPERARY: E Collins; M Purcell, M Feehan, J Cahill; C Morgan, R Quirke, K Breen; B O'Mara, P Cadell (c); C Bowe, J Morris, R McCormack; C Bourke, A McKelvey, C McCarthy.

CORK: G Collins (Ballinhassig); C O'Callaghan (Dromtarriffe), S O'Leary-Hayes (Midleton, c), E Roche (Bride Rovers); R Howell (Douglas), J Keating (Kildorrery), G Millerick (Fr O'Neill's); D Connery (Na Piarsaigh), D Lenihan (Ballyhooly); C Hanifin (Na Piarsaigh), L O'Shea (Lisgoold), B Roche (Bride Rovers); E Sheehan (Na Piarsaigh), R Downey (Glen Rovers), B Turnbull (Douglas).


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