The Cork U20 hurling side will have another Páirc Uí Chaoimh run-out on Sunday.
Prior to the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A clash between Cork and Wexford at 3.45pm, the counties’ U20 sides will clash in a challenge match at 1.45pm.
Having played their Kilkenny counterparts before the Cork-Limerick league opener last month, Ben O’Connor and his team are likely to welcome another opportunity for the team to familiarise themselves with their home venue ahead of the upcoming oneills.com Munster U20 Hurling Championship.
At Tuesday night’s Cork County Board meeting at the stadium, county secretary/CEO Kevin O’Donovan reiterated the importance of Cork under-age teams – and the county’s camogie and ladies’ football sides – having access to the facilities.
“The U20 hurlers played Kilkenny recently here at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and they will do so again on Sunday,” he said.
“The U20 footballers got to play Laois and Roscommon here in the John Kerins Cup, too. If we’re able to accommodate the under-age teams, we will do so.
“It’s the same with ladies’ football and camogie. The Cork ladies’ football association came to us and asked if they could use Páirc Uí Rinn for their home league games and that request was granted, without a second thought.
“The camogie board looked to use Páirc Uí Chaoimh for league games and that was granted, without a second thought. The only pity is that there aren’t more opportunities for double-headers with men’s games but that’s because the camogie and ladies’ football leagues have to dovetail.
“The camogie team will play Galway here before the Cork-Derry national football league game.”
The Munster U20 hurling championship – and the minor competition – follow the same fixture list as the senior hurling championship, meaning that Cork are not in action in the first round of games on March 22 and instead open their campaign at home to Waterford on Wednesday, March 29. A week later, Tipperary visit Páirc Uí Chaoimh before the Rebels finish their round-robin campaign with trips to Clare and Limerick on April 19 and 26 respectively.
At the end of the league section, the team in first place will move straight to the Munster final while second plays at home to third in the sole semi-final.
Another game for Cork in the Páirc, before a sizeable crowd, should stand to the team. On February 4, they were 1-22 to 1-17 winners over Kilkenny, with Jack Leahy, William Buckley and Adam O’Sullivan each scoring four points from play.
Eleven clubs were represented in the Cork starting line-up that now, with players from 15 clubs in all seeing game-time. The Cork goal came in the 11th minute, with a delivery from defender Ciarmhac Smyth ending up in the Kilkenny net. Cork led by 1-17 to 1-11 at half-time and stayed in front in the second half as the tempo dropped.
One notable change this year is that, whereas Alan Connolly and Shane Barrett (2021) and Ciarán Joyce (2022) were eligible for U20 but unavailable due to having played senior championship, the rules have now been relaxed.
U20 players can now play in their own age-grade and senior, albeit limited to one championship match in a seven-day window from Friday morning to Thursday evening. Speaking torecently, Cork senior manager Pat Ryan welcomed the change.
“I think everyone is cognisant of where the U20s are – if a fella’s good enough to play senior, he’ll end up play senior and otherwise there’s a great opportunity to play U20.
“Eoin Downey is probably a fella for us at the moment – it’s probably going to be impossible for Eoin to play four U20 games in April and four senior games in May. We just have to manage that and see where that goes.”