Underage championships take off
While both men’s Cork senior teams are not due to return to action for another two weeks, there is still plenty of action at underage level while the Camogie and Ladies Football sides also have important games this weekend.
Old rivals in Munster semi-final
This is the first of three possible meetings between Cork and Kerry in a short space of time and as with previous years, it’s knockout football in Páirc Uí Chaoimh tonight (Thursday) in the semi-final of the Munster Under 20 Championship with a 7.30pm start.
Both sides come into this game cold in terms of championship action with it being a first outing but as ever, both will have prepared diligently in the lead up to the game.
Cork boss Keith Ricken made that very point: “We have worked hard in training conscious at the same time that you have to be mindful of not overworking players who have been off the field for a long time.”
As with most managers, Zoom was the buzzword. “While it’s by no means ideal, it kept us all in touch and our strength and conditioning lads did a brilliant job.”
Facing Kerry in your first match is always that bit extra special. “I am sure they are saying the same, look we have prepared well, very few injuries and all of us are really looking forward to the game.”
Kerry are building from a very successful group of minor teams, including wins over some of these Cork players, but once the ball is thrown in that might not count for very little.
While they did lose to Kerry in Munster minor finals, a number of lads went on to win the All-Ireland minor title in dramatic fashion after extra-time win over Galway in Croke Park.
There is a nice balance to the Cork team; Gavin Creedon is the goalkeeper fronting a defence that includes Darragh Cashman, Adam Walsh Murphy and Tommy Walsh.
Midfield will be crucial and here the combination of dual star Brian Hayes and Evan Cooke, with Hayes captaining the side boosted by his vital contribution in the hurlers’ win last Sunday.
Conor Corbett is a real quality forward, Niall Hartnett, Jack Cahalane - another winner in Nowlan Park and Colin Walsh form part of an impressive looking attack.
Hard one to call, home advantage might help Cork, but Kerry are favourites and it will take a huge effort from Keith Ricken’s men to deny them victory.
U20 hurlers defend Munster title
In what must be the shortest turnaround in any sport, a short few days after winning the 2020 All-Ireland title, Cork must now start all over again with Bord Gáis Energy Munster semi-final against Tipperary in Thurles on Tuesday night at 7.30pm.
Pat Ryan and his backroom team deserve immense credit for the way they have managed the two groups in recent weeks, and while there are several players involved in both, it has meant very often four nights’ training in a row, which is some effort.
By contrast, Tipperary’s sole focus has been on this year’s championship and also they have a game - a quarter-final win over Waterford after extra-time - under their belts.
The manner in which they won that match will give them a real momentum heading into this semi-final. Substitutes Devon Ryan, Jack Leamy and James Devanney helped swing the game in Tipp’s favour. Between them they bagged 1-9, and that strength in depth will help the Premier County, who also have impressive players in Paddy Creedon, Kian Kelly, Max Hackett, Keith Ryan and Kevin Maher.
Cork can call on a number of players that were central to the All-Ireland win and en route to that title, Tipperary were defeated in the Munster Final, admittedly on a very cold December night, in contrast to what it is likely to be on Tuesday in Thurles.
These include Ciaran Joyce, Padraig Power, and Darragh Flynn, while Cormac O’Brien who captainss, Luke Horgan, Brian O’Sullivan and Ben Cunningham will also feature.
Of course Cork will have to play without senior duo Alan Connolly and Shane Barrett who because of a bizarre rule, cannot play having played in the Senior Championship loss to Limerick. The irony of all this is that if the 20s have a prolonged campaign and the seniors are beaten, they can they play. Confusing I know, but then that’s the GAA.
On the basis of their more focussed preparation and a game played, Tipperary will start as favourites, but this is a strong Cork team and for all the distractions in advance of the game are well capable of winning.
Minor footballers head to Dungarvan
At the Fraher Field in Dungarvan on Wednesday next, Cork play Waterford in the quarter-final of the Munster Minor Football Championship and barring a major surprise, Cork should progress to a Munster semi-final clash with Kerry on 30 July.
Camogie team open All-Ireland campaign
Having enjoyed a good run to the league semi-final and following that up by winning the Munster Championship, Cork will play host to Dublin in Páirc Ui Rinn on Sunday at 2pm in the first game in their group phase of the All-Ireland Championship.
Manager Paudie Murray said they are in good shape. “Yeah all okay, a few knocks and bruises but all in good form, and looking forward to the Championship, delighted to win the Munster title on the back of a narrow loss to Galway in the league semi-final.”
Down and Waterford are the other teams in the group and while Cork are confidently expected to advance to the quarter-final and Paudie is keen to further develop the panel.
“Our primary focus is to get out of the group and be a stronger team for it by getting game time into the players and be ready for tougher tests ahead.”
Dublin under new manager Adrian O’Sullivan survived a relegation play-off to retain their Division 1 status and will look to build on that, but with Catriona Mackey, Laura Treacy, Linda Collins, Ashling Thompson and Amy O’Connor leading the Cork challenge a home win looks certain.
On Sunday the Under 16 A team had to St Brendan’s Park Birr to play Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Final on the back of an impressive win over Galway in the semi-final, while congratulations to the Minor team who won the Munster title on Tuesday last.
Ladies Footballers face Tipp
With no neutral venue available, Cork must travel to Tipp town on Saturday at 2pm, decided on a coin toss for their second game in the TG4 All-Ireland Championship on the back of a narrow win over Meath.
Manager Ephie Fitzgerald confirmed that Orla Finn and Marie O’Callaghan will miss this game through injury, but on the plus side Marie Ambrose and Aine Terry O’Sullivan will be fit to line out.
Ephie was pleased with the win over Meath: “they were coming in off the back of winning the Division 2 League title and they set up very defensively and that made it tight, we never looked like losing and could have won by more but we got the job done.”
The side met in the league a few weeks ago and Ephie said Tipp tested them that night. “They did, particularly in the first half so we are aware of what they will bring to the game, but a win will see us advance to the knockout phase and that is the target on Saturday.”
Since that game Tipp have lost key players Ashling Moloney and Emma Morrissey to injury and that will weaken their challenge, so with Ciara and Brid O’Sullivan, Erika O’Shea, Melissa Duggan and Sabdh O’Leary in good form, Cork should win.
Best wishes to Peter O’Leary who has stepped down as PRO of the Cork Ladies Football Board and many thanks for your co-operation over the years.
Congrats to all involved with the Cork Under 20 All-Ireland hurling win last Saturday night particularly Pat Ryan for his co-operation at all times. The win ended a long wait for national glory and the joy on the faces of so many in Nowlan Park showed what it meant to Cork GAA people.
Disappointing to see that Imokilly conceded their game to Muskerry in the Colleges and Divisional section of this year’s County Senior Football C’ship. It is well documented that football is a distant second in that division, but surely with no club championship action on right now, it could not have been that difficult to field a team?