Cork goalkeeper Paudie O’Sullivan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Exciting times for supporters

While the main focus of attention this week is on the senior hurling, there’s two massive games for Cork minors both on Saturday - an All-Ireland Final and semi-final and that after the Under 20 final on Wednesday.

It’s an exciting time for Cork supporters as the hunt for tickets goes on. Add in the holding of the 2021 Feile Na Gael across the county, along with two 2020 county finals also scheduled it’s all set for a bumper weekend of action.

Can Cork stop Galway’s bid for fifth title?

It may have taken them a long time to win their very first All-Ireland minor hurling title but now Galway are on the cusp of achieving something that looked unlikely as they try to win a fifth successive title.

All the more remarkable when you consider that given the structure of the season their very first game was the semi-final win over Kilkenny last Friday night.

In advance of the game their manager Brian Hanley was worried how they would respond as it was only a few weeks ago they won the 2020 title, but afterwards he hailed it as “our greatest ever victory considering the limited preparation we have had with this particular group.”

Galway will approach this final in confident mood, and considering how easily they saw off Kilkenny it is clear they will pose a serious threat to Cork’s bid to end that long wait for a title at this grade.

Hard to believe you have to go back to 2001 in a team captained by Tomas O’Leary for Cork’s last win, in the interim there have been many false dawns, but this present group look well capable of ending the long wait.

Cork was comfortable in all three wins in the Munster Championship clearly showing why this team is so highly rated and while Manager Noel Furling was thrilled with the win in the final, some aspects of their play would need working on.

He said: “First of all, thrilled with the win, got the perfect start with Eoin (O’Leary’s) goal and we were in control from there on, but we got a bit sloppy at time’s and that is something we will need to get out of our game for the final.”

The fact that the lads are only 17, 16 in some cases and that the game was won early, might also be a factor and Noel agreed: “Absolutely, they are after all only young lads but against better opposition you would get punished for that.”

As for the final, when we spoke their opponents were not yet known, but Noel knew enough about both of them to suggest it would not be easy: “Look it’s an All-Ireland Final and Kilkenny and Galway have been in more finals then we have over the years so they will have that All-Ireland experience over our lads, but whoever it is we will be ready.”

I have no doubt they will and the manner in which they have progressed to the final suggests Galway will need to be at their very best to beat this Cork team.

That said there is also a lot of quality in the Connacht side with a few names linked to the past among them. Anthony Keady son of the late Tony, Joshua Ryan son of Eanna, while Rory Burke’s father Richard was the goalkeeper in the 1993 loss to Kilkenny.

In fact Burke was the top scorer in their semi-final bagging 0-10, all from placed balls, while Tiernan Leen, John Cosgrove, Michael Power, team captain Diarmuid Davoren, Danny Glennon and Dylan Dunne all key players who will pose a serious threat to Cork’s title ambitions.

Cork as a unit is well balanced with skilful and strong players in all lines of the team.

Paudie O’Sullivan is a top class goalkeeper while he is fronted by a solid defence in Darragh O’Sullivan, Ben O’Connor and Tim Wilk. In fact as well as their defensive duties all three have scored in the campaign to date.

The midfield pairing of Finn and Tobin are effective and workmanlike, while the attack bristles with talent, pace and scoring power.

William Buckley usually operates as a third midfield and his work rate and distribution is a key element of the game plan, while Ben Nyhan, Eoin O’Leary and the free scoring Jack Leahy will test any defence.

Cork also have quality on the bench and that could be crucial if as many expect it to be a tight contest.

That said this is a very good Cork team and if they re-produce the form they have shown to date the long wait the title to return to Leeside could finally end. Cork to win.

It’ll be in Thurles on Saturday at 7.15pm and is live on C103.

Footballers face tricky tie

O’Connor Park Tullamore on Saturday with a 2.30pm start is the next step on the journey for the Minor footballers with Ulster Champions Tyrone providing the opposition in the All-Ireland semi-final.

In the immediate aftermath of the win over Limerick in the Munster Final Cork manager Michael O’Brien was delighted at finally ending a long wait for a title at this level, 11 years to be exact: “A great win even if at times we made it hard for ourselves but this is step three of five to win the All-Ireland.”

Michael was right in saying making it hard for themselves although it has to be said that the referee was fairly generous in awarding Limerick a number of soft frees, but the manner in which the players reacted pleased him no end: “Without a doubt the way the lads responded to going behind shows the determination in the group, we said at the second half water break we had 15 minutes to save our season and that’s exactly the way it was but all credit to the lads they dug deep and got the result and the win an important one at that.”

The depth in the squad was also a factor: “No question about it the substitutes all made important contributions and that is something we have been emphasising all year it’s not only the 15 that starts, it’s the match day panel and the lads that don’t make the panel on the day, it’s a real team effort on and off the field, now it’s time to get ready for semi-final.”

A bit like Cork, Tyrone ended a long wait for the Ulster title, their last win was in 2012, and en route to that win they racked up some big scores and are fancied by many to go the distance.

They certainly looked the part in the win over Donegal scoring two quality goals in the process and Conor Owens, Cormac Devlin, Ronan Strain, Eoin Mc Elholm, Gavin Potter, Ronan Donnelly and Ronan Cassidy anchor a team that play with pace and power, and unlike most teams for that Province, seem to revel in an attacking mode rather than the defensive approach.

That is not say Cork are without a chance on the contrary this a very good Cork team but 60 minutes of consistency will be needed in this game.

Defensively when tested they have responded well and actually move the ball with pace out of defence especially Sam Copps, Conor Twomey and Darragh O’Brien, while in midfield Michael Mc Sweeney and Rory O’Shaughnessy are a formidable pairing.

There is little doubt that the attack revolves around Hugh O’Connor and his return of 1-5 from play in the Munster Final was key, while Niall Kelly was quite in that game he is capable of scoring when needed, Jamie O’Driscoll and Jack O’Neill are also competent attackers.

The bench was important in the wins over Kerry and Limerick and you can be certain that if required Dylan Crowley and Luke O’Herlihy will once again answer the call.

Tyrone might be favourites but Cork if they can deliver a consistent performance and be less wasteful in front of goal are well equipped to win and progress to the final against Meath or Sligo.

2020 County Finals and Camogie League Final

Despite there been two big minor games on Saturday, the County Board are pushing ahead with plans to complete two more of the outstanding 2020 County Finals.

Pairc Ui Rinn at 2pm will host the Lower Intermediate Hurling decider an all East Cork clash of Russell Rovers and Castlemartyr and games of this nature as we have seen in recent weeks take on a life of their own.

Both sides possess excellent players with the Barry and Brian Lawton and Cork under 20 star Ciaran Joyce - a very busy time for this young lad – is key for Castlemartyr while the attacking duo of Josh Beausang and Brian Hartnett are big players for Russell Rovers.

Castlemartyr have been operating at this level for a bit longer than their opponents and that might be enough to get them over the line.

Mallow at 8pm is the venue for the Intermediate A Football final between Rockchapel and Mitchelstown and here the return of Mark Keane from Australia, the scoring hero for Cork against Kerry last November, could swing the tie in their favour, but football in Duhallow is in a very good place and expect a real titanic battle before the destination of the title is decided.

With Cork keeping a watching brief of the All-Ireland Quarter Finals in Páirc Ui Chaoimh on Saturday ahead of the semi-final’s back there a week later, the County Senior League Final goes ahead without inter-county players of course on Friday night.

Old rivals Glen Rovers and Inniscarra meet in Castle Road at 7pm on the back of impressive wins over Ballincollig and St Finbarr’s respectively in there semi-finals and with the Championship on the horizon a win would come as an ideal boost ahead of their opening games, it should be lively encounter.

Finally, commiserations to the Cork Ladies Footballers on their loss to Meath last Sunday, with ten minutes left it looked all over indeed on 58 minutes they still looked winners, but those final passages of play will haunt them for some time. The absence of Orla Finn and for most of the game of Ciara O’Sullivan were factors in their lossbut knowing the character in the squad they will bounce back.