The Cork minor hurlers will look to make the most of home advantage for the second straight game as they take on Tipperary in the Electric Ireland Munster MHC tonight (7pm).
A 3-19 to 0-15 victory over Waterford last Tuesday got Kieran Murphy’s side off the mark and another victory at Páirc Uí Chaoimh would be a huge step towards a top-three finish and qualification for the semi-finals (the side finishing first go straight to the final).
Cork have an unchanged starting 15 while there is a boost with captain Jayden Casey - one of only two survivors from last year - being named on the bench. They had played Galway in a challenge match at the venue before the championship began and Murphy was glad of the opportunity to give game-time to members of the squad game-time against the Déise.
“It was only the lads’ second time playing out there,” he says, “and that was a slight concern coming down because it is such a different surface, a lot quicker than what you’d find on most pitches.
“It was great to get fellas off the bench. In the group format, scoring difference could be important too and the message was to keep the scoreboard ticking over and not conceding goals at the other side.
“Patrick [Walsh] came on and got a point, so did Ronan [Dooley], Conor Mac [McCarthy] from the Barrs came on and made an important contribution too, which was good.”
Cork impressed against Waterford, with Barry Walsh scoring 2-5 while Barry O’Flynn got 1-7. If there was a quibble, it would be some wayward shooting in the first half but, even then, Cork were comfortable with a 2-11 to 0-10 half-time advantage.
“It was difficult,” Murphy says, “there was a wind against and it was slightly across at times.
“A few times, a bit more conviction in the shot or even just taking it on an extra step or two, especially into that breeze because, as we all know, down the Páirc, it tends to blow strong into the Blackrock end.
“But look, you can’t fault the lads, we were just delighted with their performance and their effort and their workrate.”
Tipperary were not in action last week. They began their campaign with an away defeat against Clare a fortnight ago and will be keen to get off the mark. Robbie Ryan and Sam Rowan are likely to be the main threats for the Premier County and Murphy is expecting a response from James Woodlock’s side.
“Yeah, certainly,” he says, “they had a tough outing the last day, against Clare up in Shannon.
“They were well in that game and put up a performance. We’ve seen that video and I’ve no doubt that they were down watching us against Waterford and might come up with plans based on that.
“As I said to the lads after – good performance, two points on the board, that’s what it is. It’s not like the old days, when a team would be gone out and we’d be on to the next phase.
“We’re still in the same place as we were. This championship is going to be tight in every game, every score is going to count.”
Given the compacted nature of the schedule, there’s not much opportunity for work in between games.
“It was just recovery, to be honest,” Murphy says.
“The lads were tired after, they worked hard and the pitch is so firm, it’s very punishing on the calves in particular.
“It was a down session on Thursday, we did a bit on Saturday, just trying to be ready to go for Tuesday.
“There were a few things on Tuesday, breaking ball and runners off the shoulder, that we showed them on the video.
“It’s more walk-throughs than sessions, given the tight turnaround.”
In that regard, Murphy – who managed Waterford senior club Abbeyside in 2021 and 2022 – understands the need to tailor the message when dealing with teenage players.
“Even though they’re only 16 and 17, they’re fierce mature and they’re hungry to learn.
“Definitely, when you’re talking to them, it’s a different mindset but they have high standards, I have high standards, they know that when we’re giving them feedback that it is constructive.”
CORK (MHC v Tipperary): O Walsh (Youghal); O O’Callaghan (Liscarroll Churchtown Gaels), D McCarthy (Passage), C Cronin (Midleton); C O’Callaghan (Kiltha Óg), Ben Walsh (Killeagh), D O’Leary (Ballincollig); J O’Leary (Lisgoold), Conor McCarthy (Glen Rovers); J Murphy (Dromina), Z Biggane (Charleville), Barry Walsh (Killeagh); S Meade (Killeagh), B O’Flynn (Sarsfields), F O’Brien (Erin’s Own). Subs: F Murphy (Killeagh), S O’Callaghan (Aghada), J Galvin (Éire Óg), J Casey (Youghal), P Walsh (Carrigtwohill), Conor McCarthy (St Finbarr’s), R Dooley (Douglas), B Lynch (Youghal), K O’Gorman (Charleville).