Cork U20 hurlers carry the last hopes of a county into Munster final 

Cork U20 hurlers carry the last hopes of a county into Munster final 

Cork's Eoin Carey shoots on goal against Limerick U20s. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

YOU could call them, the last men standing, the Cork U20 hurlers who represent the county’s only hope of landing honours this season.

After the demise of the senior team and the loss of the minors last weekend to Limerick, it’s left to Pat Ryan’s team to carry the flag.

From the outset this bunch of players have been heralded as one of the most talented in the grade or at U21 level in recent times and whilst they have a bit to go to live up to that billing, they are right in the mix.

Victory over Tipperary in the Munster final next Wednesday night will catapult them into an All-Ireland final against the Leinster champions but, of course, that’s easier said than done.

Things did not start too well last Saturday with the defeat of what was perceived to be a good minor team to Limerick but a few hours later, Ryan’s team came good when the big questions were posed in the Gaelic Grounds against the same county.

The U20s must have created some sort of a record in their extra-time defeat of the Shannonsiders.

It’s well documented now, less than a week later that they scored more in the 20 minutes of extra-time than they did in regulation time.

And three of the subs that were introduced registered 1-12 between them.

One of them, Colin O’Brien from the Liscarroll/Churchtown club fired over three points from sideline-cuts, definitely a record at this level.

Both Cork and Tipperary found themselves in a similar position in their semi-final victories, both having to go the extra 20 minutes after failing to resolve the issue in regulation time.

Both counties had a very disappointing season on the senior front so that makes this Munster final next Wednesday night all the more important.

Cork's Brian Roche in action against Limerick's Mark Quinlan. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Cork's Brian Roche in action against Limerick's Mark Quinlan. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

In that age bracket and at U21 level, Tipperary have inflicted plenty of pain on the Rebel County team, defeating them in two All-Ireland finals, the 2018 loss particularly galling as Cork had trounced the Premier County in the Munster final.

At least this season the team that loses the Munster final will not be coming back to turn the tables in the All-Ireland as it is a knockout game in the province.

The stats from the Cork and Limerick semi-final last Saturday are well documented now, Cork cutting loose in extra-time to win comprehensively.

They won by 14 points in the end with their substitutes contributing 1-12 to their final tally.

Again, that was another illustration of how a deep pool of resources are impacting on games at all levels now.

Cork boss Ryan would have been very happy with the final outcome at the Gaelic Grounds, maybe not overly happy with some things that had transpired prior to that.

But it’s the end product, the end game that counts and the management team, led by Ryan had no hesitancy in making the big calls when the need arose.

Of course, the outcome has now presented the management with a bit of a problem, getting your best team out on the pitch at the start against Tipp next week.

A lot of players put up their hand in the extra-time win over Limerick, it’s a strong squad overall and the decision must be made on whether or not to include them from the start in the final.

Tipperary emptied their bench too against Waterford in their semi-final and had to rely on one of their substitutes, Max Hackett to secure the late, late goal in ordinary time to bring the game to extra-time.

Tipperary’s Max Hackett scores a goal to bring the game to extra-time in Waterford. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Tipperary’s Max Hackett scores a goal to bring the game to extra-time in Waterford. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

In fact, that equalising score arrived in the sixth minute of injury time.

Both Cork and Tipperary played their best hurling in the extra twenty minutes so it’s all set up very nicely now for a grand finale with a place in the All-Ireland final at stake.

So, the stakes for both counties are very high going into the game and victory for either would end the year on a positive note when the seniors from both counties did not deliver.

Cork and Tipp battling it out for the bragging rights on December 23, who would have envisaged that 12 months ago. But when it’s Cork and Tipp in any Munster final, the timing does not matter, one just wants to get the better of the other more than anything else It may well be a Christmas cracker.

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