CORK have won more big games at underage in recent years than most fans give them credit for, but very few tight ones. Especially in hurling.
The U20s landed a Munster title last Wednesday night at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but more importantly, they came out the right side of a dogfight. That was the major takeaway for the Leeside faithful looking for a bit of Christmas cheer.
Pure relief, with an All-Ireland final against Galway or Dublin in the new year a more bonus. Obviously, Cork could do with winning that; they just couldn't afford to be beaten again by Tipp. Particularly with the talent in the squad.
The Premier had the goal chances, denied by the excellent Rebel keeper Eoin Davis, to prevail, helped by a few handy frees in a very bitty game marred by fussy refereeing and Cork's nerves.
In defence, there was no shortage of leaders from captain Conor O'Callaghan and Eoin Roche in the full-back line to centre-back Ciarán Joyce, a confident and mature hurler given he's just 18.
Shane Barrett shone with 0-5 but Colin O'Brien contributed hugely as well, to the tune of 0-3, considering scores from play were hard to come by.
Subs Seán Twomey, Brian O'Sullivan and Jack Cahalane were involved in the critical goal and Shane O'Regan put himself about in attack.
Tempers flared a bit at the final whistle between both groups, a reflection of the rivalry but also the stakes. Defeat would have been another gut-punch for Cork hurling.
The result put Cork into a fifth underage All-Ireland final since 2017. A pretty impressive record, given Cork hadn't reached an All-Ireland before then since 2001 at minor and 1998 in U21.
That achievement by Denis Ring and his management, who progressed from minor in '17 to U21/U20 up until last season, hasn't really been acknowledged.
The problem is, the only triumph came in the U17 grade three years ago, with John Considine at the helm, which was a one-off competition because minor was dropping from U18.
The same season a minor All-Ireland slipped out of Cork's grasp against Galway, a square ball against Robert Downey at a key stage swinging it. The All-Irelands U21 and U20 finals were harrowing losses to Tipp, brutally disappointing, with a Munster final defeat to a late Jake Morris goal thrown in for good measure.
The core of Daire Connery, the Roche twins, Brian and Eoin, and Conor O'Callaghan have been on board for all the All-Ireland appearances since 2017.
Whatever happens against the Leinster champions, that's some going.
Cork will need to up the gears a bit for Galway or Dublin. As selector Wayne Sherlock told TG4: "We won but there's definitely more in the tank from these lads."
Labhair Wayne Sherlock roghnóir @OfficialCorkGAA linn i ndiaidh an chluiche!— Spórt TG4 🐝 (@SportTG4) December 23, 2020
"We asked them to do it for the lads at home"@MunsterGAA @GAA_BEO @BGEGAA #GAABEO #HurlingToTheCore pic.twitter.com/vITQJ2CNXS
Manager Pat Ryan explained: "We were looking for effort, and we got that in spades, the lads tried fierce hard, including the subs we brought on.
“We mightn’t have gotten the 1-12 we got against Limerick the last day, but they emptied the tank, they got the hooks and blocks in."
They made mistakes but there could be no faulting the attitude. That alone gives them a right chance the next day.