WHEN watching the Cork U20s recent loss to Kerry in Tralee one could not help but think we were witnessing something we would see repeated when the seniors locked horns.
There had only been a point in it as late as the 53rd minute only for the home bench to grab a hold of proceedings to rattle off the last six points, to seal what was in the end a deserved 1-11 to 0-7 victory.
But, one can’t help thinking that it could have been different had the Cork U20s not suffered from the same type of crippling injury list that the senior team seems to have permanently on the go.
This U20 side should have been the minor crew from the brilliant 2019 minor All-Ireland victory over Galway, but for one reason or another only four of the starting fifteen from that All-Ireland Final featured against Kerry, with Clonakilty’s Dan Peet, Ballinora centre-back Neil Lordan, Carbery Rangers midfielder Keelan Scannell and Éire Óg’s Hugh Murphy being the four.
That is a staggering drop-off in the space of three years.
Sure, Patrick Campbell’s fledgling professional rugby career meant that he was never going to be an option, and Jack Cahalane was concentrating on hurling only at the grade this year, but that still leaves a lot of players unavailable due to injury.
Not for the first time, the question has to be asked as to why so many of Cork’s talented young footballers are breaking down at such an early age?
It does seem to happen on far higher a frequency than in other counties, and until an answer is found to this then Cork will not be emerging as a force in the game anytime soon.
As well as the aforementioned two, the Cork attack in Tralee was also down Michael O’Neill, Conor Corbett and Hugh O’Connor.
Combine all those with the likes of Ryan O’Donovan and Colin Walsh and you would have a tasty looking forward line at this grade, but it was not to be.
The middle eight options would have been further bolstered by the availability of Jack Lawton, Ciaran O’Sullivan and Eoghan Nash, while Daniel Lenihan and Cian O’Leary in defence were badly missed too.
And the reason why we have referenced the recent Munster U20 decider reversal is because it will probably mirror what is about to occur at senior level this weekend when Kerry visit Páirc Uí Rinn for the much-publicised Munster Championship clash.
Cork may have won the battle to have the game at their secondary ground, but the real war starts now, and they must do so in the knowledge that they are nowhere near full strength.
Being without the likes of Sean Meehan, Sean Powter (who is thankfully due back this Saturday) and Ian Maguire mean the core of the side has been ripped out and given the respective spring form of both sides, it would appear to be a mismatch on paper.
Cork retained their Division 2 status by the skin of their teeth with a narrow win over Offaly while Kerry sauntered to a bloodless league 1 triumph over Mayo in Croke Park.
The form guide was not helped by Offaly’s subsequent championship defeat to Division 4 outfit Wexford. The two teams would appear to be at different levels at present.
A whole bunch of Cork players are attempting to rush back from their own injuries in order to bolster the ranks for the weekend.
These include Maurice Shanley, Paul Walsh, Killian O’Hanlon, Brian Hartnett, Brian Hayes and Damien Gore, who all have had either restricted or no campaign to date. It is a lot to ask for them to come in with little or no prep and perform at this level.
You would imagine that last July’s 4-22 to 1-19 Munster Final defeat in Killarney will occupy a considerable amount of Cork’s thoughts in the build-up and will likely define how Cork approach the game.
Cork will be looking to make this a dogfight. Of course, if Kerry were to build an early lead the fear would be that this Cork team currently does not have the ammunition to dominate enough around the middle to mount a fightback.
Cork have been accused of having no fight by one of Kerry’s most famous sons. Even without their main leaders, they will have to show plenty of it this weekend.