AFTER another disappointing season for the Cork senior hurlers, all eyes will be on TG4 this weekend for the minor and U20 provincial semi-finals.
No pressure on the young players of course, but a couple of wins would offer a much-needed boost. That's particularly the case at U20 level, where the likes of Daire Connery and Shane Barrett, who featured for the seniors this season, have the chance to shine.
It would also be sweet to record a double over Limerick the day before their seniors head into battle for Liam MacCarthy with Waterford.
The Donal Óg Cusack-managed U17s take on the Shannonsiders in Semple Stadium at 1pm, which will be screened on the TG4 YouTube channel, while the U20 clash, at LIT Gaelic Grounds, is live on TG4 proper at 4pm. In addition, the minor footballers are away to Kerry next Tuesday at 7pm, which is also on TG4's YouTube.
Hopefully, there will be a few finals yet before Christmas: the minor hurling is Sunday, December 20 at 1pm, the football on Tuesday, December 22 at 7pm and the U20 hurling on Wednesday, December 23 at 7.30pm
The schedule has been set for the All-Ireland series in early January too.
The Munster hurling champions take on Galway on January 2-3 with the final a week later, while the football semi-final, with Munster against Connacht, is January 16-17 and the All-Ireland on January 23-24.
If Pat Ryan's U20 hurlers progress, it's straight to an All-Ireland final against the Leinster winners on January 9-10, as Galway are in the province.
While the drought to an All-Ireland underage title remains a millstone weighing down Cork hurling, to 1998 in U21 and 2001 in minor, the county has at least reached three finals, losing one to Galway and two to Tipperary. Far from ideal but a significant improvement on the previous years.
The senior panel is getting a shake-up in 2021, with Kanturk pair Anthony Nash and Aidan Walsh retiring and Conor Lehane and Christopher Joyce let go, it sends a signal out to the young hurlers in Rebel county.
The minor grade has less bearing than ever on senior, given it's dropped to U17, but for the U20s the gap is easier to bridge. Team captain Conor O'Callaghan has looked the part defensively since 2017 when he was a vital cog in the U17 rearguard while also starting for the minors in a crossover year when two All-Irelands were run off.
The likes of Shane O'Regan, Brian and Eoin Roche, Ciarán Joyce and Daire O'Leary, who was brilliant for Watergrasshill in the summer and bang on form when the U20s met Kerry two months ago in the Munster quarter-final, are all on the radar for the elite level.
Connery struggled on his debut against Waterford back in October but has the skill and vision to develop into a marquee man. A question remains about his natural position, as he's had a number of roles across the middle eight but in the modern game that shouldn't be a disadvantage.
Barrett was electric for Blarney and UCC in the club championships, having previously excelled in the Harty Cup with Christians. Ticking every box to date, how highly he's rated was reflected in a brief appearance at the end of Cork-Dublin in the qualifiers.
Just 19, time is on his side, but along with club-mate Pádraig Power, Blackrock's Alan Connolly, O'Regan and Courcey Rovers' Seán Twomey, who has struggled with injury, is capable of featuring for the Cork seniors.
After making the hard calls, Kingston and his selectors have the scope to reshape the team and panel now. By the same token, Patrick Horgan and Seamus Harnedy are mainstays of the forward unit, and Alan Cadogan, if he can stay fit, Jack O'Connor (22) along with Shane Kingston and Declan Dalton (both 23), will be to the fore as well.
The point is, we shouldn't read too much into Saturday's action, as much as we'd love to see a clutch of the U20s rip it up to the degree they look like viable starters in 2021.
Just beating Limerick, whatever it takes, would do for now.