THE biggest compliment you could pay the Cork minor hurlers is that their dominance over Waterford made their Munster final victory so routine.
The red tide continues to rise and it capped off a memorable weekend for Leesiders while setting up three All-Ireland finals in six days from Tuesday week: U20 against Galway, minor versus Galway or Kilkenny, and the senior showdown with Limerick.
If the minors' excellence didn't make for high drama at Semple Stadium, it was a great reflection of the work put in by manager Noel Furlong and his backroom team, and the young players themselves. The hooking, blocking and tracking was outstanding, with Bishopstown's Diarmuid Lester deserving of praise in that department. The calibre of mentor involved with Furlong, including former Cork All-Star Niall McCarthy, has these young guns prepared expertly.
Furlong has a great track record in club hurling, winning counties with Fr O'Neill's and Russell Rovers, a Fitzgibbon Cup with UCC, and of course, as a player anchored his own club Carrigtwohill's defence when they won a shock title in 2011. A serial winner and a shrewd operator.
Bridging a 20-year gap to Cork's last minor All-Ireland would be another top-class achievement for Furlong in a career filled with them.
With the grade now U17, it's very much a developmental one, but this crop have represented themselves, their families and their clubs with distinction, whatever happens on Saturday, August 20 in the All-Ireland, and in their inter-county careers from here.
An 11-point gap on the scoreboard at full-time reflected Cork's superiority, with a brilliantly finished goal by Eoin O'Leary setting the tone from the throw-in, and the likes of Darragh O'Sullivan, Ben O'Connor, Timmy Wilk and Mikey Finn, all hurling excellently throughout.
Keeper Paudie O'Sullivan was razor-sharp in between the posts but Cork's collective work-rate and tackling meant all Déise's scores were hard-earned.
Ballinhassig's Darragh O'Sullivan got the nod for the official Player of the Match for his explosive drives out from defence as well as his intensity in the tackle.
Jack Leahy and Diarmuid Healy weren't as devastating as they'd been in the previous defeats of Clare and Limerick but still shared 0-5 from play between them and were fouled for four converted frees. Again there was a superb balance throughout the field, nine different scorers; O'Leary clipping 1-2 and playmaker William Buckley pilfering 0-4.
With 1-17 rattled off in the first half, Cork didn't need to cut loose in the second half and a dogged Waterford unit didn't allow them to either. Subs David Cremin, Adam Walsh and Rory Sheahan all did well though and there could be a couple of positions up for grabs on the training ground.
In 2017, after Cork's last Munster minor title, they subsequently lost the All-Ireland final to Galway, but more importantly produced Ger Millerick, Rob Downey, Daire Connery, Ger Collins and Seán O'Leary Hayes for the senior set-up. It'll be the same here, a handful will make it to the elite level in Rebel red.
It's rare a county that wins the Tony Forristal Tournament for U14s, which Cork did in 2018, follows it up with a minor All-Ireland. When Cork beat Kilkenny 2-15 to 3-6 three years ago, Ben O'Connor and Harry Nevin hit the goals.
Nevin is now trying to make it through the ranks of professional soccer with Preston North End, which shows how quickly everything can change. O'Connor has been a magnet for aerial ball in the half-back line, but he's also highly regarded as a rugby player.
Cork won the A and B tournaments at U15, with the U16 competition ruled out through Covid last year. Victory on Saturday week would complete the set for a clearly gifted crew.