Ben O'Connor: Cork U20 hurlers hope squad depth pays off

Waterford the opposition in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Wednesday night
Ben O'Connor: Cork U20 hurlers hope squad depth pays off

Cork U20 hurling manager Ben O'Connor. Picture: Larry Cummins

The Cork U20 hurlers will look to make the most of home advantage as they open their Munster Championship quest against Waterford at Páirc Uí Chaoimh tonight (7pm).

Prior to Cork’s Allianz Hurling League games against Limerick and Wexford at the venue, the U20s played challenge matches against Kilkenny and the Model County respectively. Manager Ben O’Connor hopes that those outings will give the players a familiarity with the place.

“It was a great help,” he says.

“We were lucky that the games were on before national league games and fellas got used to a bit of a crowd.

“It isn’t every day that you get the chance to run around inside there. Even for hitting frees and sidelines, fellas have it in their head what they can do and what they can get away with inside there.

“We’re delighted that the county board allowed us in there for the two matches.” 

Eoin Downey, Ben Cunningham and Colin Walsh are all U20 squad members who featured for Pat Ryan’s senior team in the league. In the past few years, if such players were to play senior championship, it would make them unavailable at U20 level but a compromise was approved at GAA Congress in February, allowing them to play both, albeit limited to one game a week. O’Connor welcomes the change.

“Ah sure, it makes sense,” he says.

“The rule should have been that you had to play your own age group and then wait to play senior, but it makes sense that every fella at 20 years of age can play at his own age.

We’re for the betterment of all the players and we don’t want to be ‘flah-ing’ any fella. We don’t want someone playing three matches in a week or anything like that.

“We’ll try to manage it between us and see how things are going.”

With a heavy schedule to come, O’Connor knows that a strong squad will play its part.

“We’ve 39, including the three with the seniors,” he says. “It’s a good, strong panel and they’re good fellas to train but it’s on matchday that we want them to show that.

“All along, we weren’t really able to train all together, because you had Harty Cup and freshers’ hurling and Fitzgibbon.

“In saying that, the schools were good to us, we were good to the schools, so were the colleges, so no players were being worn out.

Cork's Diarmuid Healy battles Darragh Carley of Wexford in the recent U20 challenge match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Larry Cummins
Cork's Diarmuid Healy battles Darragh Carley of Wexford in the recent U20 challenge match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Larry Cummins

“We’ve two weeks and then we’re off for a week and then we’ve two weeks again.

“You’re bound to pick up a few injuries in that so it’s definitely a squad game and fellas know that. 

If someone isn’t starting, he’s going to get game-time at some stage.

“We’re trying to get fellas to buy into that. I know it’s disappointing not to start but if you’re not starting, that means some fella is going better than you. You wish him all the best and then drive on to try to get your chance.”

CORK (Munster U20HC v Waterford): 

B Saunderson (Midleton); 

S Daly (Randal Óg), S Kingston (Ballinora), D O'Sullivan (Ballinhassig); 

J Dwyer (Ballincollig), E Downey (Glen Rovers); T O'Connell (Ballincollig); 

M Mullins (Whitechurch), M Finn (Midleton); 

C Walsh (Kanturk), D Healy (Lisgoold), B Cunningham (St Finbarr's); 

A O'Sullivan (Ballinhassig), R O'Sullivan (Na Piarsaigh), J Leahy (Dungourney). 

Subs: P O'Sullivan (Fr O'Neills), C Geary (Youghal), M Howell (Douglas), T Wilk (Cobh), C Doolin (St Finbarr's), B Keating (Ballincollig), W Buckley (St Finbarr's), D Cremin (Midleton), E O'Leary (Glen Rovers).

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