CORK name a mixture of All-Ireland minor and U20 winners and a couple of ‘bolters’ in their team to play Kerry in the Munster U20 football semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh this evening at 7.30pm.
It includes four players from the 2019 minors, Adam Walsh-Murphy (Valley Rovers) and Darragh Cashman (Millstreet) in defence and Conor Corbett (Clyda Rovers) and Jack Cahalane (Castlehaven) in attack.
Full-back Diarmaid Phelan (Aghada) was among the substitutes for the U20 success against Dublin that year, too.
Goalkeeper Gavin Creedon (Kilshannig) and corner-back Conor McGoldrick (Éire Óg) have no previous inter-county experience, though Creedon is part of the senior set-up too.
Manager Keith Ricken, who is in his third season, has seen Kerry in action but is concentrating on his own side.
“They’ve six or seven minors in a row now and that includes winning Munster the year Cork won the All-Ireland.
“We’ve seen them play, but the focus is totally on ourselves and I can’t allow anyone like Kerry or Clare or Waterford or anybody else come into our dressing room,” he said.
Kerry are the defending champions, having dethroned Cork by 0-17 to 1-9 in Tralee last year.
“We had very little preparation because of the timing with club U21 championships taking place here at the same time as well as colleges.
“I’m expecting a tune out of our lads this evening because our preparation has been good.
“I’d be disappointed for them if they don’t because they’ve put in such a huge effort, but then again every match takes on a life of its own.”
Despite the difficulties posed by lockdowns, Cork kept the show going.
We went to a lot of matches last year and had watched around 56 players, but nobody knew it was going to pan out this way again.
“We had a lot of Zoom calls and did a variety of things, including with Con Burns, our S&C coach, who was excellent on that aspect.
“It was difficult for lads of that age, but we got through it well because on our first night back everyone was talking.
“There was no shyness or any kind of strangeness about the whole thing. We got to see guys playing with their clubs as well and we have 36-37 in the extended panel now.”
Ricken places a huge emphasis on developing not only the playing side but helping his players mature into adults, too.
“Our job is part developmental in trying to get players through to the top level. It’s very important to have good people and we place a lot of emphasis on that, developing them as people as well as good footballers with a winning mentality.”
Cork return to Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the first time at this level, having used Páirc Uí Rinn in recent years.
“We’ve played a few games there, including a great game with the seniors, and our last game there was against Galway. We played Tipperary, Kildare, and Tyrone as well. The clubs and the county board have been very supportive.”
Captain Brian Hayes and Jack Cahalane bagged All-Ireland U20 hurling medals last weekend and are selected at midfield and centre-forward respectively.
I fully support dual players at underage level and it shouldn’t be a problem. Communication is huge, not only in something like this but in dealing with young people anyway.
“And I can honestly say there was never an issue between the hurlers and the footballers. I know Pat Ryan very well and sure we’re all trying to do the same job. We’re both open-minded.”
The other semi-final is between Tipperary and Waterford in Thurles this evening as well with the final scheduled next Thursday.
CORK: G Creedon (Kilshannig); C O’Donovan (Newcestown), D Phelan (Aghada), C McGoldrick (Éire Óg); A Walsh-Murphy (Valley Rovers), T Walsh (Kanturk), D Cashman (Millstreet); B Hayes (St Finbarr’s), captain, E Cooke (Ballincollig); C Corbett (Clyda Rovers), J Cahalane (St Finbarr’s), N Hartnett (Douglas); D Dorgan (Ballincollig), C Walsh (Kanturk), D Buckley (Newcestown).
Subs: C O’Leary (Douglas), N Lordan (Ballinora), D Holland (Argideen Rangers), L Horgan (Nemo Rangers), C O’Sullivan (Kilshannig), E Nash (Douglas), S O’Sullivan (Adrigole), C O’Hanlon (Buttevant), S McDonnell (Mallow).
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