Cork minor footballers chase three in a row in Munster

First up will be old rivals Kerry with the both sides advancing to the semi-finals irrespective of the result
Cork minor footballers chase three in a row in Munster

Cork captain Colm Gillespie lifting the Munster MFC cup after last season's victory over Kerry in the final at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

CORK’S first port of call in their efforts to complete a Munster minor football three-in-a-row for the first time in 30 years is likely to be the familiar setting of Tralee’s Austin Stack Park.

That’s based on the long-running home and away arrangement between the counties with Cork enjoying the benefit of home advantage in last season’s final at Páirc Uí Rinn, when the Rebels clinched a 31st title following a 3-11 to 0-9 win over the old enemy.

It was an amazing success on one level because less than three weeks earlier it was role reversal in Tralee with Kerry recording a comfortable 1-12 to 0-5 victory in a somewhat convoluted format.

Kerry’s reward was a direct route to the semi-final where they awaited the winners of the Tipperary-Cork tie, Tipp having come through the round-robin series involving Clare, Limerick and Waterford and also accounting for Limerick in the final of that particular section.

Despite only having a week to re-group after the disappointing performance in Tralee, Cork shrugged off any inhibitions to dominate practically from start to finish at Semple Stadium, beginning like a runaway train with a 2-9 to 0-2 lead after 21 minutes before romping to a 3-20 to 1-13 success.

Early goals from Bryan Hayes (Nemo Rangers) and Olan O’Donovan (Ibane Gaels) helped Cork settle immediately and a third from the outstanding Ed Myers (Naomh Abán) on the resumption ending any doubts about the outcome.

For manager Michael O’Brien (Ballincollig) it presented an idea opportunity set the record straight in a second meeting with the Kingdom with their 2021 title on the line, but even he must have been pinching himself at the remarkable 25-point turnaround.

Cork led by 0-7 to 0-3, when a long delivery from captain Colm Gillespie (Aghabullogue) rebounded from an upright into the grateful arms of Hayes, who blasted in the opening goal, Cork sweeping seven points clear by the interval.

A red card just after the resumption impacted Kerry’s prospects and a couple of goals from Alan O’Connell (Kilshannig) and a second from Hayes sent Cork out of sight en route to a successful minor title defence for the first time in 22 years.

In 2021, the championship’s format was different, a traditional knock-out version with Cork swamping Waterford in round 1 before edging a terrific semi-final with Kerry by 1-15 to 1-14 at Pairc Ui Chaoimh and then defeating a game Limerick side by 1-17 to 0-13 in the final.

DIFFERENT

This season’s version is slightly different again although much the same as 2022 albeit with a significant alteration with a return of two semi-finals on this occasion.

Once again, Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford will play each other in a round-robin system with all games fixed for Mondays, starting on April 13 and continuing for the next fortnight before the top two contest the final on May 11.

The same evening Cork and Kerry collide in the lone quarter-final with Cork set to travel over the county bounds.

The difference this time is that both will play semi-finals, the winners taking on the runners-up from the round-robin final and the losers meeting the winners. Both games are listed for May 18 with the final on June 1.

Cork have a new manager in Ray O’Mahony (Éire Óg) though Daniel Cronin (St Mary’s) remains from last season’s set-up with Eamon O’Connor (Kildorrery), Daire O’Sullivan (Naomh Aban ) and James Condon (Glanworth) coming on board as selectors. Declan Murphy (St Finbarr’s) is the goalkeeping coach.

Cork’s back-to-back minor successes have also impacted on the Corn Uí Mhuirí (Munster Post-Primary Schools SFC) with five teams from the county managing to reach next week’s quarter-finals.

 Shane Carey, Skibbereen Community School, fighting for this breaking ball with Clonakilty Community College players Chris Keneally and Olan O'Donovan during the Simcox Cup. Picture: Dan Linehan
Shane Carey, Skibbereen Community School, fighting for this breaking ball with Clonakilty Community College players Chris Keneally and Olan O'Donovan during the Simcox Cup. Picture: Dan Linehan

There’s an all-Cork affair between Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh and Skibbereen Community School with Hamilton High School Bandon taking on the defending champions St Brendan’s Killarney, St Francis College Rochestown meeting St Flannan’s and Clonakilty Community College facing Mercy Mounthawk Tralee.

There are links to all five from the county’s minor triumphs like Darragh O’Donovan (Bishopstown) for Spioraid Naoimh, Shane O’Connell (Castlehaven) in Skibb colours, Niall Kelly (Newcestown) for the Hammies, Hayes and Tim O’Brien (Nemo Rangers) for Rochestown and Dan Twomey (Owen Gaels), Aaron Cullinane (Clonakilty), Darragh Gough (do) and O’Donovan for Clon.

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