Munster Minor Hurling Championshp: Cork v Waterford, Páirc Uí Rinn, 7pm.
THE past few years have, it has to be said, been frustrating for the Cork minor hurlers and lady luck has not smiled on them.
Four years ago they lost a Munster semi-final to Waterford in extra-time, a Waterford team that subsequently went on to win the All-Ireland.
In 2014 they bowed out to Limerick by two points, a Limerick team that went on to take the provincial title.
They fell to Limerick again the following year, having beaten them 2-20 to 0-13 in the opening round.
They would almost certainly have prevailed again in the semi-final when the teams met up again but an injury to star player Shane Kingston was a huge blow and it was a failed mission.
As it was, Cork, with current senior players Darragh Fitzgibbon and Mark Coleman playing key roles dominated the game for long spells but poor shooting cost them.
Limerick came with a late burst and won the game by three points.
Things did not get any better last season and having led Tipperary by six points very early in the second-half, they went down again in the end with the Premier County eventually prevailing by four points as they marched on to All-Ireland glory in September.
So surely their luck must change soon and hopes are high enough for this year’s team that is again managed by Denis Ring with John Mortell, Liam Martin, coach John Dwyer and Fergus Ryan on board too.
Underage hurling in the county has already had a very significant success with the U17s capturing the first ever Munster title in that grade at the expense of Waterford last week, having seen off Limerick and Tipperary prior to that.
That victory was a further illustration of the good work being put in by a lot of people at that level and a positive campaign by the minors, starting tonight against Waterford would be another very welcome boost.
Waterford have the benefit of having already played a championship game against Clare but they won’t recall that assignment too fondly.
Clare won on a scoreline of 1-24 to 0-9 and they will be seeking a big improvement here.
Cork have prepared well for this campaign with numerous challenge games under their belt and, according to selector John Mortell, in an interview in the Corkman, they believe they have assembled a strong squad.
“You can never be sure how minors are going to perform first time out and Waterford already have played a championship game which has to give them some sort of an advantage.
“They were well beaten by Clare but, from what I can gather, they were not at full strength and they will have a number of key players back this time.
“We are expecting a tough test from them but we’d be quietly confident we can rise to the challenge provided we play to our potential.’’
On the starting block for Cork tonight are Douglas duo Ross Howell and Brian Turnbull, who won an U21 county with their club last season.
Evan Sheehan from Na Piarsaigh, and Ger Collins, Ballinhassig keeper will be key figures, with John Geary (Shandrum) one of the more talented subs.
A few of the winning U17 team are involved too, with Na Piarsaigh’s Daire Connery coming into the game on the back of some outstanding displays in that U17 campaign.
Sean O’Leary-Hayes is the team captain, while another player, James Keating from Kildorrery, who starts centre-back, scored 2-10 for Mitchelstown CBS in their win over Coachford CS last week in the final of the Cork Colleges B is another very strong contender.
In the corresponding game last season at Walsh Park, Cork triumphed on a scoreline of 0-17 to 0-10. Sheehan scored five points that evening.
The winners here will play Tipperary in the Munster semi-final, which in Cork's case would be in Thurles. Cork are hot favourites tonight and real test could come in Semple Stadium, without the safety net of the backdoor.
CORK (v Waterford): G Collins (Ballinhassig); C O’Callaghan (Dromtariffe), S O’Leary-Hayes (Midleton), E Roche (Bride Rovers); R Howell (Douglas), J Keating (Kildorrery), G Millerick (O’Neill’s); D Connery (Na Piarsaigh), D Lenihan (Ballyhooly); C Hanafin (Na Piarsaigh), L O’Shea (Lisgoold), B Roche (Bride Rovers); E Sheehan (Na Piarsaigh), R Downey (Glen), B Turnbulll (Douglas).