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U21s face crucial repeat exam against Tipperary

Wednesday, 22nd August, 2018 4:27pm

There is a touch of irony that the last inter-county hurling game of the year is to be played in the home of the newly crowned All-Ireland champions, the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.

The venue and indeed the timing, Sunday at 5.30pm, might have an effect of the attendance, and it’s a pity that the counties could not come to an agreement on the venue, although it was not the fault of Cork, as it is understood Tipperary refused every offer that was put before them.

Hopefully a good Cork crowd will travel as this is a crucial game as a win could be a springboard for success at senior level, as Limerick have shown.

It is also a unique final, the first ever meeting between the old rivals, and a repeat of the Munster Final in which Cork won comfortably.

On this selector Liam Martin, urges caution. “Yes we did play very well in the Munster Final, but this is a new ball game. Tipperary showed their capabilities when overcoming Galway in the semi-final, and we will need to be at our best to win.”

Liam though is confident they can. “We have an exceptional group who have worked very hard and apply themselves brilliantly after each game, and that is how we have approached our games this year focus immediately on the next one.”

The Glen Rovers man also confirmed that all their injury worries would be fit. “Yeah it’s looking good for the lads Deccie (Dalton), David (Griffin) and Daire (Connery) are all okay which gives a nice problem, when we sit down to pick the team.”

For captain Shane Kingston, it’s a game he is really looking forward to and the ideal chance to make up for lost opportunities. “We missed out narrowly at minor and under 21 level, but that’s in the past now and all our focus is on Sunday.”

Shane also agrees that getting back into action so soon after the senior loss to Limerick was ideal. “Perfect in fact, as we had no time to dwell on the match as we were playing Wexford the following week, and it was great to turn in a performance like we did.”

Like his selector, Shane was in doubt it would be much tougher this time round. “Definitely we know Tipperary are much better then they showed that night in the Park, so we will need to be at our very best to win, but we have prepared well and I am confident we can do just that.”

Tipperary have huge motivation and Jake Morris, Brian McGrath, Ger Browne, Mark Kehoe, Podge Campion and Colin English will leave no stone unturned an effort to land their first title since 2010.

For Cork the wait is even longer, and this team have their own motivation. Apart from winning the coveted medal, there is also the desire to right the wrongs of a few narrow defeats in recent years at various grades.

There is a nice balance to this Cork team, and with a large majority of the panel involved with the seniors, the experience gained at that level will also help.

Ger Collins is a brilliant goalkeeper; Mark Coleman, Billy Hennessey and Eoghan Murphy anchor a solid defence; Darragh Fitzgibbon is a powerhoue in midfield; while in attack Robbie O’Flynn, Shane Kingston, Jack O’Connor, Declan Dalton and Tim O’Mahoney will be a handful and are capable of racking up big scores.

There are plenty of options off the bench as well, notably, Daire Connery, Conor Cahalane and quite possibly Brian Turnbull who impressed on his comeback with Douglas last weekend.

Cork are favourites to win, and it’s hard to argue against it, Tipp will be better than they were in Munster Final, but so will Cork and if they play to their potential, they will win.

With the Under 21 Final in Limerick, the programme is limited but exciting and without doubt the big game of the weekend is the East Cork derby in Premier Intermediate Hurling between Cloyne and Youghal in Killeagh on Friday at 7.15pm.

Youghal were relegated from senior last year and will be very keen to make a return but this is a difficult tie against a Cloyne side that faded in their first round loss to Fermoy.

To be fair, they were down a few key players through injury and Paudie O’Sullivan was also an absentee; he returns and despite the presence of Bill Cooper with Youghal, Cloyne might just edge this one.

There are three games in the Intermediate Championship including the replay of the Midleton v Ballincollig clash in which the East Cork side staged a fabulous comeback to earn a second bite of the cherry, which they could well take.

Kilbrittain might be too strong for Meelin, while the Muskerry derby between Grenagh and Aghabullogue is a hard one to call, the latter won the recent clash in the football championship and could very well make it a double.

In football, Mayfield with Stephen Hackett and, if fit, Shane O’Donovan leading their challenge look good enough to beat Kildorrery, while Knocknagree will be strongly fancied to defeat St Finbarrs. But they would not want to underestimate the ‘Barrs who are enjoying a good run of late and saw off Ballydesmond last time out, but this is an exceptional Knocknagree side who should win.

Cork embark on the long trip to Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon on Saturday for their All-Ireland semi-final clash with Donegal and are strongly fancied to make it to the final.

The team has been improving with every outing and the manner in which they have seen off the opposition in recent games suggests it will take a huge effort from Donegal to deny Cork a place in the final, almost certainly against champions Dublin.

Cork are well capable of racking up big scores and if the O’Sullivans, Orla Finn, Orla Farmer and Eimear Scally hit form, a trip to Croke Park looks on the cards.

Conor Lane’s appointment to referee the All-Ireland Football Final is just reward for one of, if not the top official in the country right now, reflected in the fact that he has refereed seven big games in the championship this year, and is well deserving of the honour.

It’s his second final - he took charge of the 2016 drawn decider between Dublin and Mayo and won widespread praise for his handling of that game. I am sure he will be just as efficient on 2 September and carries the best wishes of everyone in Cork GAA.

Congrats also to James Bermingham who will act as a linesman in the Minor Final.

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