Cork minor hurlers blitzed Clare but must keep eye on the ball for Limerick

Few groups in any county turn development squad promise into minor trophies cautions Éamonn Murphy
Cork minor hurlers blitzed Clare but must keep eye on the ball for Limerick

Mikey Finn keeps his eye on the sliotar ahead of Niall O Farrell and Jack O'Neill of Clare. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

IT'S rare a Cork underage team lives up to the hype but the minors did that and more in Thurles on Wednesday night.

They utterly humiliated a Clare outfit that, apart from a brief spell after the first water break when they strung three points together, were outhurled up and down the pitch. That Cork raised as many green flags as Clare did white ones said it all.

Noel Furlong's side were electric at times. Their pace, controlled aggression, aerial prowess and support play simply a joy to watch.

Jack Leahy plundered 3-8, 3-5 from play, and two of his goals were thunderous, exploding into the net. Second-half subs Ross O'Sullivan, still U16, and Adam Walsh combined for 3-4 and threatened on every possession.

Ross O’Sullivan of Cork scores his side's sixth goal despite the attention of John Cahill of Clare at Semple Stadium in Thurles. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ross O’Sullivan of Cork scores his side's sixth goal despite the attention of John Cahill of Clare at Semple Stadium in Thurles. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Ben O'Connor lorded matters as a deep-lying centre-back, freed up from marking duties by Clare withdrawing a forward to pick up third-midfielder William Buckley. 

Both hurlers were sensational when Barrs lifted the Premier 1 minor county last year and move with speed and confidence. 

O'Connor, more reminiscent of Blues legend Ronan Curran than his namesake from the Cork team of the noughties with his catching, is extremely mobile for his size. Buckley is a lot lighter but skips through tackles and his pop passes are sublime. He tallied 0-4 for good measure.

Given the chasm between the sides, no one in red gave less than 7/10. It was a collective effort. 

Midleton dynamo Mikey Finn and Cillian Tobin (Bride Rovers) hoovered up breaks at midfield, Kevin Lyons was a beast at full-back, Ballincollig's Tadhg O'Connell and James Dwyer both nabbed 0-2 from play, corner-back Darragh O'Sullivan was extremely comfortable in possession and raided for a point, and Lisgoold's Diarmuid Healy lanced over 0-4. There were no weak links.

Cork full-back Kevin Lyons catches a ball ahead of Sean Rynne of Clare. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cork full-back Kevin Lyons catches a ball ahead of Sean Rynne of Clare. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Given the impression the subs made, there's genuine competition for places, which is why it's such a pity this year's championship is knockout instead of round-robin. 

As devastating as Cork were at Semple Stadium, holding Clare to a lone second-half point and hunting in packs relentlessly when the game was long over, Limerick have a few days now to study the game-time before the provincial semi-final in July 27.

Last winter, Cork were good in lowering the Banner and walked into a sucker-punch from the Treaty. While it's a different management team, you'd hope there's a lesson to be learned. 

Clare underage hurling is clearly in a horrible state, so the margin of victory comes with a health warning.

Also, the last two Leeside minor teams that were as highly rated as this crop, in 2015 and 2019, didn't even make Munster finals after. In fact, 2017 was the only occasion Cork reached the provincial decider since 2008.

Cork were Tony Forristal Tournament champions at U14 and lifted A and B silverware, by splitting the squad equally, at U15, but few groups in any county turn that type of development squad promise into minor trophies. We'll have to wait and see if these young Rebels are different.

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