Cork U20 hurling manager Donal O’Mahony expects his team to embrace the challenge of an away oneills.com Munster U20HC semi-final against Tipperary next Wednesday.
Defeat against Limerick at Páirc Uí Rinn on Wednesday night meant that the Rebels – winners of the last two All-Irelands in the grade – finished second in Group 2. While they were already assured of a semi-final spot, they take on Tipp in FBD Semple Stadium as Limerick host Waterford.
While Cork led early on, seven straight points put Limerick into a 0-12 to 0-7 advantage and the visitors never trailed after that. Though obviously disappointed, O’Mahony felt that there were positives to take, too.
“They had purple patches in the match and caused us trouble,” he says.
“What frustrated us most, and we talked about it in the dressing room after, was that we worked our way back into the match two or three times and then gave away a soft score straightway.
“Every time they pulled away, we showed great character to get back into it but then we conceded easy scores after that. Then, that shows the quality that Limerick have, they have good players.
“But we’re proud of the way they lads never gave up. They stayed fighting right until the end and we had a goal opportunity in injury time that we didn’t take.
“If we played to our maximum and didn’t win, we’d be really worried, whereas we didn’t play as well as we can and we hopefully a few fellas coming back in. They’re positives but it’s hard work now for the next couple of days to be ready.”
In their first outing, against Clare in Sixmilebridge, Cork started slowly before coming good late on. This time, it was the period coming up to half-time that was key.
“There’s very little between the teams,” O’Mahony says.
“Clare and Limerick had a very close game and obviously we had a close game with Clare last week.
“We were very disappointed with the start that we had above in Clare last week and we talk about character an awful lot – the frees didn’t go well for Ben Cunningham in Clare and the first one he got against Limerick was right in front of us, an awkward one, and he showed great character to put it over.
“I thought we started better and settled into the game but in that seven- or eight-minute patch before half-time they pulled away from us. That was concerning as it meant that we went in six points down at half-time.”
However, in terms of the next assignment, O’Mahony certainly doesn’t feel that there is anything to fear in Thurles.
“All Cork people know that we never mind going to Thurles,” he says.
“It’s a fantastic pitch and we’re not looking for excuses. We watched Tipperary and Waterford last week, they’re two good teams and there’s not much between them, so I don’t think there’s going to be any major difference in the difficulty.
That match will be knockout, will may help to focus minds – with Cork and Limerick assured of advancing whatever happened on Wednesday, it might have been difficult for the players not to be affected. Ultimately, it was part of their hurling education.
“The culture we create all the time is that there are no excuses,” O’Mahony says.
“I’d like to say that, no, it’s not a factor but it’s like when you go down to play Kerry in hurling – you say it’s not a factor but it does seep in.
“At the same time, on Wednesday night we were beaten by a better team so we’re not using that as an excuse.
“We had four of last year’s minor team starting against Limerick and that’s a big ask for those fellas and it’s a steep learning curve for them.
“They’re all excellent hurlers but the physicality and intensity of adult hurling is a big change for them. On the positive side, we have a few more back in with us – Ben O’Connor is with us again and Darragh Flynn’s injury is clearing up a small bit.
“That’s what you want heading into a knockout game next Wednesday, to have a bit of competition.”