Timmy Wilk the only survivor as Cork minors open campaign against Kerry

Cobh man is joint captain with Ross O'Sullivan
Timmy Wilk the only survivor as Cork minors open campaign against Kerry

Timmy Wilk (left), celebrating with Cillian Tobin after Cork beat Galway in last August's Electric Ireland All-Ireland MHC final in Thurles. Picture: Inpho/James Crombie

Timmy Wilk is the sole remaining member from last year’s All-Ireland win as Cork minor hurlers begin their Electric Ireland Munster MHC campaign against Kerry in Austin Stack Park in Tralee tomorrow night (7pm).

Cobh’s Wilk, joint captain along with Na Piarsaigh’s Ross O’Sullivan, starred at left half-back as Noel Furlong’s side ended a 20-year wait for the Irish Press Cup, earning a spot on the team of the year.

With Cork now operating a system where coaches move up through the Rebel Óg ranks with the players, former county camogie manager Paudie Murray is the man in charge this year.

Though he would like to have been able to bank more preparation time, he is satisfied that the primary aim of player development is being executed.

“Covid has hit us,” he says, “and you’d like to have done more with them.

“From a conditioning point of view, we’re in really good shape and there has been a lot of work done with Rebel Óg development squads over the last number of years.

“From that side of things, we’re in good shape but you’d like to have had more time with them. The other thing is that we didn’t have a lot involved last year, whereas there would be other counties out there that have a lot more. You look at Tipperary – I think they had 18 guys involved last year.

“It means that guys need to be educated on the finer details of inter-county hurling.”

“Timmy Wilk is the only starter from last year. Ross O’Sullivan, James O’Brien, Cian Buckley, Daniel Murnane and Conor O’Leary were on the extended panel.

“There’s a reason why I was given a 12-month term and Noel Furlong had one before me and it’s because you’ll have people out there building for next year.

“From the point of view of developing U17s, it’s better this way. You want to be handing these on to the U20s in two years’ time as good hurlers. The key word for U17s is development.”

While the senior provincial championship has returned to the pre-Covid round-robin format, the minor grade – which provided the curtain-raisers in 2018 and 2019 – will now operate with two groups of three.

Joining Cork and Kerry are Limerick, who come to Páirc Uí Chaoimh next Tuesday, but each of the six counties will be guaranteed a knockout game at the end of the group phase as second place in each section plays the third-placed county from the opposite pool in a quarter-final.

“It means you get three games,” Murray says.

“I suppose the only thing is that they come hot and fast, which is probably the downside of it.

“If they were spread out a bit more, it’d be better but you have a short season, so you can’t have it every way.”

That compacted nature could be a further drawback in terms of player availability.

“The killing part for us is the injuries,” Murray says.

“Mick O’Driscoll, who’d probably be one of our top players, broke his tibia last week, so we’re down him. We’re down Cathal Hallahan from Douglas, we’re down Cillian Barry from Carrigtwohill and Colm Leahy from Killeagh, all injured.

“Injuries haven’t been good to us, to be honest, but it is what it is, we just have to get on with it.”

Nevertheless, they will be expected to get off to a winning start, though Murray cautions against any notion of an easy task.

“If you look at the last time Cork hurlers were down in Tralee, I think it was the U20s two years ago, they struggled to come out of it in that it was a very defensive set-up that Kerry played,” he says.

“So it’s not all going to be straightforward and it would be wrong for us to think that it would be that way.”

CORK (MH v Kerry): D O’Connell (Dromina); T O’Leary Hayes (Midleton), J O’Brien (Fermoy), E Guinane (Valley Rovers); S Ahern (Bandon), D Murnane (Carrigtwohill), M Woods (Valley Rovers); P O’Shea (Erin’s Own), B Walsh (Killeagh); A O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig), T Wilk (Cobh), E O’Mahony (Newtownshandrum); R O’Sullivan (Na Piarsaigh), J Murray (Youghal), J Wigginton Barrett (St Finbarr’s). Subs: B Heffernan (Glen Rovers), D Cashman (Bride Rovers), C Buckley (St Finbarr’s), P Kelly (Ballincollig), C O’Leary (Fr O’Neills), D McCarthy (Killeagh), J Casey (Youghal), S O’Donoghue (St Catherine’s), S Lynam (Glen Rovers).

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