It was understandable that, as soon as the draw was made for the Munster SHC on Monday, the bookmakers would make Limerick warm favourites for the semi-final clash against Cork.
While Cork haven’t lost a 70-minute championship game to the Shannonsiders since the 2013 Munster final, John Kiely’s team have won two of the last three All-Irelands, with the first of those coming after the extra-time win over Cork in the 2018 semi-final.
However, former Cork defender John Considine, who managed the last All-Ireland minor-winning Rebels side in 2001 and was in charge of the current U20s when they won the one-off U17 title in 2017, believes that there isn’t an insurmountable gap between the sides and that success for Cork could have a transformational effect in terms of belief.
“Cork will need some breaks to go their way and if they do, they’ll be competitive,” he says.
“But, at the same time, imagine if Cork beat Limerick – within a few hours, people would be saying that Cork are back and must be All-Ireland contenders.
“Last year, people were hopeful going in and there was a huge sense of deflation after the Waterford game. When you have players that don’t have All-Ireland medals, those reactions are amplified – if Cork were to win, you wouldn’t be writing Limerick off. When you’ve done it on the big day, you have that extra bit of capital.”
Reams of paper have gone towards breaking down the importance of mindset and confidence in influencing success in sport and in life. It’s something that Considine is well aware of.
“When I got on the Cork team, I never worried about being good enough to play fellas from outside of Cork,” he says.
“I was used to the Liam MacCarthy Cup coming to the school so much, so getting on the Cork team meant that you knew you were as good as anyone else.
“Belief plays a huge part. I went to secondary school in Sullivan’s Quay and Billy Morgan was our coach and he used to tell us about the poem . He couldn’t understand how lads would come in from the Barrs and Nemo, where they were used to winning and playing out of their skins, and then put on a Sully’s Quay jersey and think that, because the school hadn’t won anything in ages, they couldn’t do it.
“I was an impressionable young fella and I could see that he was right.
Last year, Cork had an up-and-down league and the same inconsistency plagued them in the championship.
“It’s very hard to draw a line through last year,” Considine says.
“You had the league at the start of the year and you were saying, ‘They’re doing some stuff well and some stuff not so well.’
“If you look at the games over the last number of years, you’re not going far unless you’re shooting 25 points and the general feeling about Cork is that they’re best in shootouts. On the downside, maybe they’re just giving away scores too easily.
“The biggest single thing that Cork have to overcome is that they don’t have guys with All-Ireland medals in the dressing room. They have it in the backroom team but not in the squad and that’s immeasurable.
“You look at the NFL – Tom Brady goes to Tampa, a 40-something-year-old man, but he brought an aura with him, ‘This guy knows how to win.’
“That’s a fixed obstacle and you can’t overcome that until you win one.”
To that end, an All-Ireland U20 victory when that final is played would be a huge step. Having worked with those players four years ago, Considine has full faith in their ability to progress.
“I’ve seen them and I know that they’re that good,” he says.
“Obviously, they’re not the finished article and they’ll have to mature and learn, but look at how they interchanged over the U20 championship.
“Look at what Alan Connolly did in the Cork senior championship final and he’s not guaranteed to be starting the All-Ireland final.
“All of those guys are coming and it’s probably too early. I don’t think that anyone would pick Cork over Limerick for the senior All-Ireland this year, but the gap isn’t as big as you might think.”