EVEN though there’s no underage silverware this season, in contrast to last year’s All-Ireland U20 and minor double, the long-term prospects remain bright for Cork football.
And that’s particularly true in the calibre of forwards emerging from the ranks as reflected in the displays of Kanturk’s Colin Walsh and Buttevant’s Conor Hanlon in the minor semi-final defeat by Kerry in Tralee on Tuesday night.
Between them they scored 1-11 of Cork’s 1-15, which fell just short of Kerry’s 0-21 in a game that needed extra-time.
Walsh is a powerful athlete, who was one of three players to line-out with the minor hurlers, as well (Tommy Walsh from Kanturk and Shane Kingston from Ballinora were the others) and looks the part.
Five of his six points came from play with the other arriving via a ‘mark’ after Walsh fielded brilliantly under a high dropping ball.
Hanlon also looks a quality finisher, opening his 1-5 with a super point and he also showed up well in his free-kicking duties.
Fittingly, both were heavily in the only goal after 34 minutes, when Walsh’s well-timed pass sent Hanlon through to score with a fine finish.
Their names will be added to the likes of Blake Murphy (St Vincent’s) and Mark Cronin (Nemo Rangers) from this season’s U20s, who lost to Kerry.
Both played important roles in the 2019 success along with Cathail O’Mahony (Mitchelstown) and Damien Gore (Kilmacabea) who were promoted to the senior panel as a consequence.
They featured prominently in the Division 3 league campaign, O’Mahony emerging top scorer for Cork with 0-18 and Gore contributing 1-8.
And from last season’s minor triumph, captain Conor Corbett (Clyda Rovers), scorer of 1-7 in the All-Ireland final win over Galway, played U20 this year while Michael O’Neill (Buttevant), who kicked 0-6 in the final, is another player with potential.
Disappointed minor manager Bobbie O’Dwyer looked at the bigger picture in his after-match deliberations and believes we saw future Cork seniors in the making.
“Colin played extremely well, having played a hurling semi-final against Limerick on the Saturday and it was tough going for him to come out again on Tuesday. We know the football that’s in him,” he said.
“Every county wants to see what’s coming through and it’s only in games against Kerry you find out whether they can step up or not. It’s a fantastic opportunity. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for us on this occasion.
“You work away for the next three or four years and no doubt about there are future Cork footballers out there,” O’Dwyer added.
Cork lost no face in defeat though they will regret missing late chances in normal time.
“I thought the difference was the small bit more extra power in Kerry’s finishing, but there was no Cork lad laid down and that’s all you can ask for.”
Clare referee Chris Maguire didn’t endear himself to Cork, social media suggesting Kerry received twice as many frees, which helped contribute 13 points.
“We will always question them, but the ref gives them and that’s the way it is.
“I’ll have a look at it afterwards, but it’s not going to change the result at this stage. Those frees certainly cost us.
“I wouldn’t say there was an imbalance in the frees, but we did give away a lot of them which I was disappointed with.”
Cork played with wind advantage in the first period of extra-time, but could only share four pointed frees with the home side.
“We always felt it was going to blow up a bit with the storm coming in and it was a question of whether we went with it or against it.
“Scores win games, as we all know, and we didn’t get enough of them.
“Kerry’s scoring power was the difference. We had a goal and two-point chances near the end of normal time, but they didn’t work out for us."