Injuries to Conor Corbett and Evan Cooke cast a shadow over Offaly tie

Cork U20 footballers have lost two key players for the All-Ireland series
Injuries to Conor Corbett and Evan Cooke cast a shadow over Offaly tie

Cork players in a huddle after the EirGrid Munster GAA Football U20 Championship final win over Tipp. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

SATURDAY: All-Ireland U20 football semi-final: Cork v Offaly, O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, 5.15pm.

THE thoughts of all involved with Cork will be with injured star Conor Corbett, who has surgery today on his injured knee, sustained in last week’s Munster final win over Tipperary.

The Clyda Rovers player is joined on the sidelines by Ballincollig’s Evan Cooke, who tore his hamstring that evening in Thurles and his Cork season is also over. Corbett damaged his cruciate and faces a long road to recovery, but manager Keith Ricken is confident he will return stronger.

CORK v OFFALY: 

1. Gavin Creedon, Kilshannig;

2. Colm O'Donovan, Newcestown, 3. Diarmaid Phelan, Aghada, 4. Conor McGoldrick, Éire Óg; 

5. Adam Walsh-Murphy, Valley Rovers, 6. Tommy Walsh, Kanturk, 7. Darragh Cashman, Millstreet 

8. Brian Hayes, St Finbarr's (c), 9. Ciaran O’Sullivan, Kilshannig; 

10. Michael O’Neill, Buttevant, 11. Jack Cahalane, Castlehaven, 12. Niall Hartnett, Douglas; 

13. Dara Dorgan, Ballincollig, 14. Colin Walsh, Kanturk, David Buckley, Newcestown (vc). 

Subs: Cian O’Leary, Douglas, Neil Lordan, Ballinora, Darragh Holland, Argideen Rangers, Luke Horgan, Nemo Rangers, Eoghan Nash, Douglas, Adam Murphy, Aghabullogue, Sean O’Sullivan, Adrigole, Jack Kelleher, Canovee, Sean McDonnell, Mallow

“We’re in no doubt that Conor will come out the other side and be better for it,” Ricken said. “Conor is the type of guy you’d love to go into battle with because he’s always positive.

Recovery can be between nine and 12 months depending on the progress. Conor has always been a quick healer with any knocks he’s picked up.

“We’ve a very good physio in Cliona O’Riordan, who has a PHD, and Dr Aidan Kelleher supervises all that side of it. The lads are in the best of care.

“The one thing about the panel of players we have is they hate being injured.

“Everyone wants to be involved in everything whether it’s training or matches and that’s great to see.

“And we must put them first, to protect them from themselves really. They need time to recover from injuries.”

Cork's Conor Corbett hammers home the fourth goal against Mayo at minor two years ago. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork's Conor Corbett hammers home the fourth goal against Mayo at minor two years ago. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Corbett won’t have to look far for advise because former star Colm O’Neill is again a selector and could write the book on cruciate recovery, having suffered three injuries during his glittering career.

“I’ve no doubt the first phone call to Conor came from Colm before 9 o’clock the following morning after the news broke.

Yet, it’s still important to contextualise every injury. People often use the word devastation, but it’s a sports injury, not a terminal disease.”

Cork played twice to reach this stage, pipping Kerry by 3-12 to 3-11 in a thriller and then denying Tipp by 3-20 to 3-10.

QUALITY

Offaly played a game more in winning Leinster for the first time since 1995. They lost to Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final afterwards.

They opened with a 1-10 to 1-9 win over Wexford and then defeated Westmeath by 1-11 to 1-9 before shocking Dublin 0-15 to 3-3 in the final.

Offaly’s only U21 All-Ireland came in 1988 when they defeated Cavan in the final after edging Kerry by a point in a replayed semi-final.

A ceiling of 1,400 spectators has been placed on the game.

Offaly’s big three players are midfielder Morgan Tynan, who accounted for 0-4, two frees and a ’45, against Dublin, corner-forward Cormac Egan, who has pace to burn and full-forward Jack Bryant, scorer of 0-6, four frees.

“I’ve had a lot of dealings with their manager, Declan Kelly over the years, playing challenge matches and that kind of stuff.

“He was very helpful to us, when we played Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final in Tullamore in 2019, facilitating us by playing matches there.

“I wasn’t surprised by them winning Leinster because they would have been my outside bet if I was a gambling man. They are a very good team with lots of speed and spirit and I remember playing them in a challenge two years ago, when Offaly put us to the pins of our collar to win.

“They are tall, strong and very fast and I don’t believe Offaly were surprised at winning either.

“Yet, we’re not going up to simply make up the numbers, however, even if it’s only a hop out of bed from them to get to Portloaoise.

“It’s a journey for us but we understand all that because of Covid and the restrictions.”

Cork’s dual players, captain Brian Hayes and Jack Cahalane, helped the hurlers retain Munster on Wednesday and are now an hour away from a second All-Ireland final.

It’s a hectic schedule for the pair, but Ricken is full of praise for their attitude and commitment.

The lads never talk about tiredness and like all young fellows they only want the next game.”

Down and Monaghan meet in the Ulster final this evening. Roscommon await the winners in the other All-Ireland semi-final.

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