While Cork will be without Ciarán Joyce and Dáire O’Leary for tomorrow night’s oneills.com Munster U20HC opener against Clare in Sixmilebridge (7pm), manager Donal O’Mahony feels that the pairs absence underlines the success of the under-age structure in the county.
The Cork side features five starters from last year's All-Ireland final win over Galway - Eoin Downey, Ethan Twomey, Brian O'Sullivan, captain Jack Cahalane and Daniel Hogan - while Ben Cunningham, Luke Horgan and Michael Mullins came off the bench in that game. In addition, Kevin Lyons and Diarmuid Healy are chosen, having been part of the all-conquering minor team in 2021.
Joyce and O’Leary are still eligible for Cork, winners of the last two All-Ireland titles at the grade, but their inclusion in the senior set-up bars them from playing U20. However, O’Mahony is satisfied that their development has put them in Kieran Kingston’s plans.
“We see our definition as providing players for the senior set-up,” he says.
“That’s the main function of our existence – we’re in the week of championship now, so obviously we’re going to try to win what we can, but we’re very happy that Dáire and Ciarán have made the step up to the seniors.
“Ethan Twomey and Eoin Downey are in with them too, which shows that the system of working. That’s a great endorsement of it.”
Pat Ryan was the man in charge as Cork ended the long wait for an All-Ireland as the 2020 title was won last July and then they backed it up with the 2021 edition seven weeks later. After he stepped down, Bishopstown clubman O’Mahony transitioned from selector but the rest of the set-up has stayed fairly constant.
Selector Wayne Sherlock also stood down but Tom Kenny and Traolach Martin have come in and O’Mahony is delighted with the management team.
“People were on to me when I came in that I’m the manager now and I’ll bring in my own people,” he says, “but there’s no doubting the value that ‘Rasper’ [Condon] and Brendan and the lads added to the two previous successes.
“I don’t believe in getting rid of fellas just for the sake of getting rid of them. They’re really good GAA fellas and they’ve done really well.
“The other additions then, it’s a case of establishing what our culture is and then trying to find fellas to fit that culture as opposed to just picking fellas who were very good players or very good coaches. Tom has been exceptional now in that sense.”
CORK (U20HC v Clare): B Saunderson (Midleton); C McCarthy (Sarsfields), K Lyons (Ballygarvan), C Smyth (Midleton); E Twomey (St Finbarr's), E Downey (Glen Rovers), L Horgan (Glen Rovers); M Mullins (Whitechurch), B O'Sullivan (Kanturk); B Keating (Ballincollig), J Cahalane (St Finbarr's), D McSweeney (Blarney); D Healy (Lisgoold), D Hogan (Sarsfields), B Cunningham (St Finbarr's). Subs: C Wilson (Newcestown), D O'Sullivan (Ballinhassig), C Geary (Youghal), M Howell (Douglas), S Walsh (Carrigtwohill), E Cullinane (Ballinhassig), J Leahy (Dungourney), E O'Leary (Glen Rovers), C Walsh (Kanturk).