THE Munster Council has finalised the fixtures for this summer's minor and U20 hurling and football championships.
The first game throws in at Semple Stadium on Wednesday, July 14 when the Cork minors face Clare in the provincial quarter-final, while the following evening at Páirc Uí Chaoimh the U20 footballers host Kerry in the semi-final.
It won't be the first action featuring Cork underage teams this summer, as the delayed U20 All-Ireland hurling final from 2020 featuring Cork against Galway or Dublin is slated for July 10/11. Pat Ryan and his selectors will move straight onto the 2021 series after, taking on Tipp or Waterford, away on Tuesday, July 20.
Keith Ricken remains at the helm of the U20 footballers, having guided them to an All-Ireland title in 2019, while last spring they were beaten by Kerry in the Munster final.
There are new management teams in place for minor hurling and football.
Noel Furlong is at the helm of the hurlers, with fellow Carrigtwohill club man and Cork All-Ireland medalist Niall McCarthy involved, and they have a gifted group that certainly looked the part at U14, as Tony Forristal Tournament champions, and U15 succeeding in A and B competitions. Of course it's often a different sceál when development squad players progress to minor.
In football, Ballincollig county-winning bainisteoir Michael O'Brien is at the helm with Cork football legend Donncha O'Connor as a selector.
He has replaced Bobbie O'Dwyer, who in his stint oversaw a Cork minor All-Ireland title in 2019, the first in 19 years.
Cork v Tipperary or Waterford, Semple Stadium or Walsh Park, 7.30pm. Tuesday, July 20.
Wednesday, July 28.
Cork v Kerry, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 7.30pm. Thursday, July 15.
Thursday, July 22.
Cork v Clare, Semple Stadium, 7.30pm. Wednesday, July 14.
Cork or Clare v Limerick, Semple Stadium, 7.30pm. Tuesday, July 27.
Monday, August 9.
Cork v Waterford, Dungarvan, 7.30pm. Wednesday, July 21.
Cork or Waterford v Kerry, Páirc Uí Chaoimh (if Cork), 7.30pm. Friday, July 30.
Wednesday, August 11.
Meanwhile, the LGFA has strongly defended the decision not to pencil in All-Ireland championships at U14, U16, and U18 level for 2021.
While provincial bodies will be allowed stage championships at these ages, like last year, there won't be any All-Ireland semi-finals or final.
This decision provoked a strong reaction from a number of counties, particularly Cork, who have an excellent record in All-Irelands in the modern era.
In a statement, LGFA CEO Helen O’Rourke explained there was too much of an overlap between players involved at county U16 and U18 to senior squads.
The Camogie Association is running minor in 2021.
“A number of factors were taken into consideration before LGFA Management reached their decision to prioritise club football while cognisant of the fact of providing an opportunity of playing inter-county underage competitions at provincial level only, if counties so desired.
"We also acknowledge concerns relayed to LGFA Management that many parents are not keen to allow their daughters to play sport for the month of May for trials or otherwise leading up to the Leaving Certificate or GCSEs. A significant amount of schooling time has already been lost due to the pandemic.
“We have a very short season to play club and county underage games, taking the month of June out of the equation due to state exams. In effect, you have July and August to play underage club and county.
“When county and club activity is back in full action, underage players could find themselves out four-five days per week. County managers would be seeking for them to train two-three times per week, and when you factor in club training and games, it is not a situation conducive to player welfare.
“Many of the players in these age groups are dual players with their Ladies Football and Camogie clubs. In a normal year, this activity would be spread out over a greater number of months, but with the delayed return players would be asked for this commitment continuously until their county exited, with the possibility of being caught between club and county. Similar to the adult player, it was essential to have an end point for inter-county activity as September is identified as the window for club activity only."
“What is most important is that every player at club level receives meaningful football over the coming months following a long absence from the sport and that the windows of opportunity are provided for both. The inter-county window cannot be left open-ended or extended to the detriment of the 98% of the remaining club players."