Under 20 football Munster Hurling Championship

Footballers begin campaign

As Cork prepare for the visit of Limerick to Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday night for the Munster semi-final, manager Ronan McCarthy said the league campaign is but now a distant memory.

“Naturally we were very disappointed to be relegated, but there is little we can do about it only take the positives out of it.”

And these were? “The way we finished the league, we won two of our last three games, particularly the win in Armagh, and we were very competitive for long periods against a very good Donegal team.”

McCarthy then dealt with the injuries: “Unfortunately Sam Ryan’s season for club and county is over with a serious hamstring injury, while Sean Powter could play later in the championship.”

Despite these unfortunate setbacks McCarthy is happy with the preparation which included challenge games against Laois, Carlow, Galway and All-Ireland champions Dublin who had a strong team on duty - Cork actually won all four games.

McCarthy said: “I know people will say it’s only a challenge game but all teams at this time of the season are in championship mode and we are no different, so we learned a lot from all the games, so yes, happy enough with how things are going.”

The manager was surprised that Limerick is providing the opposition with Tipperary were expected by many to win the quarter-final. “I am but on the night they (Limerick) were deserving winners, and as a management team, we were impressed with how they played.”

Continuing McCarthy said: “They are big and strong in the middle of the field and worked very hard all night, they were well organised and obviously the match and the manner in which they played will give them a boost and we certainly will give them the respect they deserve.”

McCarthy was quick to dismiss the notion that Cork should win: “We have no divine right to win, and unless our attitude and approach on the night is spot on, we won’t win. We have prepared well, and apart from the injuries, we are happy and confident going into the match.”

Douglas player Kevin Flahive is of a similar view: “We were disappointed with how the league ended, but that’s in the past and now we are fully focused on Saturday’s game.”

Limerick may be a Division 4 side but they were excellent in the win over Tipperary and their ability to get goals proved crucial.

Ian Corbett, Peter Nash and Cillian Fahy got the goals that night and Cork will need to be vigilant in their marking of these players.

What was also noticeable in that win was the manner in which they responded when Tipperary fought back with Sean O’Dea, Gordon Brown, Darragh Treacy and Tommie Childs in midfield, while in attack Jamie Lee, Michael Fitzgibbon and Seamus O’Carroll all played key roles.

Cork will rely on the players that were prominent throughout the league campaign, and while relegated, the display in the final game away to Armagh will have given them huge encouragement.

The players and management have come in for a lot of criticism in the last few months so this is an opportunity to lay down a marker and win a game they will be expected to win, and some would suggest with a bit to spare.

The reality though is different; Limerick have the advantage of a championship game under their belts, while Cork will need to start well and not allow the visitors build any momentum.

Cork will have three championship debutants in their starting 15, Nathan Walsh, Eoghan McSweeney and Liam O'Donovan.

It also includes a number of players who are experienced at this level, among them James Loughrey, Ian Maguire, Ruairi Deane, John O’Rourke, Brian Hurley and Paul Kerrigan.

Limerick will test them but if Cork are to make an impact in the championship they should win and the expectation is that they will.

Get a good start, deny Limerick an opportunity to get into the game, after that set about winning - anything less will be a disappointment.

Clare welcome Kerry to Cusack Park on the same night and while Colm Collins has built a formidable outfit, it’s hard to see them denying Peter Keane’s side a place in the Munster Final.

Sport of course has a habit of throwing the odd upset, but it’s odds on that the Munster Final evening on 22 June will be a Cork vs Kerry minor and senior double-header in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

The Cork vs Limerick game from Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday night will be broadcast live on C103.

First up at 5pm, however, is the Munster Senior Ladies Football meeting of Cork and Kerry, and given that Cork hammered Waterford who beat Kerry in the first round, it’s unlikely the Kerry girls will deny the league champions a place in the Munster Final.

Cork, having played Kerry on Wednesday in Clonakilty, make the trip to O’Moore Park Portlaoise on Saturday at 2pm, for their second game in the competition to play Dublin.

This is a very welcome competition ahead of the championship, and with it honouring former Cork and St Finbarr’s star goalkeeper the late John Kerins, it would be nice to see Cork make an impact.

Cork sit out Round 3 this weekend, but they will be keeping a keen eye on the games in Walsh Park, where it's Limerick vs Waterford and at Cusack Park, where it's Clare vs Tipperary.

Away wins were rare last year while this season already Clare, Tipperary and Cork have won on the road.

What are the odds of another away weekend double on Sunday with Limerick and Tipperary triumphing? Of the two Tipperary can afford a loss, but Liam Sheedy will be keen to keep the winning run going.

As for Limerick, they face a Waterford side not going well but determined to make all the fuss about playing in Walsh Park worthwhile, a win for them would really put the All-Ireland champions in bother with Tipperary and Clare to come.

It all makes for another intriguing weekend; head on the block, Tipperary and Waterford to win.