Cork U20 footballers drive on despite losing key players like Patrick Campbell and Jack Cahalane

Conor Corbett is another marquee forward unavailable to Bobbie O'Dwyer and his selectors
Cork U20 footballers drive on despite losing key players like Patrick Campbell and Jack Cahalane

Ireland's Patrick Campbell comes up against Ross McKnight of Scotland last weekend. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

CORK’S Munster U20 campaign, which starts in a month against either Limerick or Waterford, carries added interest because of the county’s 2019 All-Ireland triumph at minor (U17) level.

The bulk of those players will be involved again under the direction of manager Bobbie O’Dwyer once more even though long-term injuries and other reasons will mean half a dozen or so won’t participate.

For example, Patrick Campbell, who was full-forward in that memorable campaign, has switched to rugby, where he is making great strides and is full-back on the Ireland U20 team that completed the Six Nations Grand Slam against Scotland at Musgrave Park.

Jack Cahalane, scorer of a goal in the All-Ireland final win over Galway, has opted for hurling this season.

Jack Cahalane breaks against Offaly last season. Picture: Denis Byrne
Jack Cahalane breaks against Offaly last season. Picture: Denis Byrne

Long-term injuries affect Conor Corbett, captain of the minors three years ago and scorer of the dramatic late goal which forced extra-time.

The Clyda Rovers player suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in last season’s Munster U20 final victory over Tipperary, a game played back in July.

Midfielder Jack Lawton from the Argideen Rangers club is sidelined for almost two years with a similar injury and Douglas pair, goalkeeper Cian O’Leary, and half-forward Eoghan Nash, are also spending long spells on the sidelines.

O’Leary, whose quick thinking led to Corbett’s equaliser, suffered a serious quad muscle injury while Nash has a hamstring issue.

And defender Colm O’Donovan (Newcestown), corner-back with the U20s last year, broke a bone in his ankle and is also missing.

“They’re all very good footballers and are fellows we would love to have, but we must work away with what we have,” O’Dwyer said.

There are very good footballers coming through in Cork, believe it or not, and it’s a case of doing the best we can with them for the senior set up down the line.” 

Despite the obvious disappointment with the number of injuries to key players, Cork will still be able to call on a big group from the 2019 season, especially in defence.

During the recent John Kerins Cup, a development league competition, Cork were able to include the likes of Daniel Peet (Clonakilty), Neil Lordan (Ballinora), Darragh Cashman (Millstreet) and Adam Walsh-Murphy (Valley Rovers) at the back.

Kelan Scannell (Carbery Rangers) provided another link at midfield while Michael O’Neill (Buttevant), Hugh Murphy (Éire Óg) and Ryan O’Donovan (Barryroe) were major contributors in Cork’s scoring return.

Cork were involved with Kerry and Galway in the only three-team group in the entire competition, which was graded according to a county’s perceiving standing.

Kerry won convincingly by 3-16 to 0-13 on Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s Astro pitch, but Cork rebounded to win by 1-12 to 0-13 away to Galway, who also lost to the Kingdom. It meant Kerry qualified for the final against the winners of the other group, Dublin, with Kerry winning by 1-12 to 1-9.

Cork and Galway then met a second time in a play-off, ensuring all teams played three times, but that was abandoned at half-time due to the weather.

“We got a lot out of the John Kerins Cup. It’s only when you start playing competitive football that you see who you have, the positions you need to fill and you’re also coming across the tactical side of the top teams that you might not have seen in challenge games,” O’Dwyer said.

“It’s only when you see what’s out there that you have to get your own structures right to get up to that level and that’s both from a coaching and a playing perspective.

“You then really have to focus on what you have to do at that stage."

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