Daire Connery: We wanted to be a Cork team that fights for every ball

Na Piarsaigh wing-back was essential to the Rebels' U20 All-Ireland hurling triumph
Daire Connery: We wanted to be a Cork team that fights for every ball

An emotional Daire Connery of Cork celebrates with Feargal Condon. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

IN GAA terms it couldn't come much better than Saturday for Cork. What a way to finish the day as All-Ireland 2020 U20 hurling champions, our first title since 1998.

It started with the ladies footballers getting their championship off to a winning start against Meath, followed by the men beating Limerick in the Munster semi-final.

And then the icing on the cake as the Cork U20 hurlers were crowned All-Ireland champions and it rounded off a simply great day for Cork.

Of course, the other two pale into significance compared to the hurlers' win and nobody would dream of saying the other results match them but it's not too often we can boast of three wins in one day.

And what a win by the hurlers, who from the minute the ball was thrown in never looked like losing.

They were in the faces of Dublin, not letting them settle and hit four points in the first 90 seconds as their opponents didn't know what was happening.

Their work-rate was outstanding and after eight minutes were 1-4 to no score up.

They hooked, blocked and hassled Dublin all over the pitch and their opponents found it difficult to settle.

Iain Ó Heither of Dublin is tackled by Shane Barrett. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Iain Ó Heither of Dublin is tackled by Shane Barrett. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Of course, Dublin enjoyed a purple patch, that was to be expected but it only really came late in the second half and it made for an exciting finish but Cork kept their heads to see the game out.

They had outstanding performances all over the pitch with Eoin Roche marshalling the full-back line and outside him Ciarán Joyce did the same at centre-back. 

It was no great surprise to see Brian Roche named Man of the Match afterwards for his display, outstanding from start to finish.

Darragh Flynn and Tommy O'Connell worked their socks off, hassling all through and were instrumental in setting up several of Cork's scores.

Some of these players have suffered in All-Ireland finals at minor and U20 level over the last few years and one of them was Daire Connery.

Already a member of the Cork senior panel the word he used to describe the win was 'redemption'.

“It's very hard to put into words what this means, it was said during the week we lost the last three out of the four and redemption now is the word that comes to mind to be honest.

“I can't believe we have won, it hasn't sunk in yet and I think it will take a while before it will.

It has been a long time coming and it's definitely redemption, it been a long time coming and all those emotions are coming out tonight and we are just over the moon.

“We said at the start of the year we are going to be a different Cork team, we want to run people into the ground, we are going to fight for every ball.

“You saw fellas there, they were diving on balls, they were hooking, they were blocking. I have no words for the group, we are a different outfit and we showed a lot of people that Cork can fight it dirty and we can fight it hard too.”

“This has been a long time coming and we will enjoy it alright." 


But like other members of the squad, he won't have too much time to enjoy it as he will be back out with the Cork seniors either next weekend or the weekend after and maybe the joy and positivity this win will be carried into the senior set-up for the rest of year ahead.

In terms of championships, it ends a 22-year wait at this level for Cork and hopefully, it won't be that long before we are back celebrating. For some of this side it won't be too long before they are back training for the 2021 campaign as they will return on Monday night, no doubt a bit battered and sore, but with an All-Ireland title secured they won't be paying too much attention to that.

The manager, Pat Ryan, was there when Cork won in 1997 and the following year two of the management, Wayne Sherlock and Brendan Coleman were involved so there was a link back to those last wins and it does lift a monkey off Cork's back.

Twenty-two years is too long for the Rebels to be at the winners' table at this age level and I have no doubt the gap will be far shorter before they are again.

Cork's Daire O'Leary with the James Nowlan Cup after the U20 All-Ireland win. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Cork's Daire O'Leary with the James Nowlan Cup after the U20 All-Ireland win. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

They say that a 'rising tide lifts all boats' and with our minors starting their campaign shortly and the seniors also out in the next week or two hopefully they will gain some confidence from this magnificent win and drive forward.

No one will be getting carried away, but at the same time, the joy around Nowlan Park showed what it meant to these young players and their families.

They are very proud to pull on the Cork jersey and hopefully many of them will carry on to do so at senior level in the coming weeks.

Kieran Kingston, The Rock and other Cork senior selectors were there to watch and congratulate them on their win and have no doubt they will be keeping a close eye on a few of them and it would be no great surprise to see a few drafted into the senior panel in the coming weeks.

For now though we and rejoice by saying we are All-Ireland champions and Rebels Abú.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more