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Under 20 title on the line for Cork and Tipp

Thursday, 22nd August, 2019 8:49am

The inaugural All-Ireland Under 20 Hurling Final is down for decision on Saturday and the interest won't be diminished even though it features two teams who are more then familiar with each other at this stage.

Cork and Tipperary have already met once this year in the championship, an epic Munster Final battle that looked to be heading in Cork's direction before a last-minute Jake Morris goal for Tipperary saw the Premier County crowned Munster champions in a heart-breaking finish for the Rebels.

The Cork team could be forgiven for allowing that result affect the rest of their campaign, however captain James Keating says that while it was a difficult result, the mood in the camp was more optimistic then ever after the defeat.

“We went for a recovery session the next day and the mood was very good. Obviously it goes without saying it was gutting to lose, we didn't want to be in that position, but both teams knew that regardless of the result, we'd both be in the All-Ireland Semi-Finals so it wasn't like we lost everything in that match.

“Leaving the pitch, we knew it wasn't the end of the world.”

Keating credits the quick ten day turnaround from the Munster Final to the All-Ireland Semi-Final against Kilkenny as one of the reasons the team was able to move on so quickly from the loss.

With no time to dwell on it, having such a huge match in such a short space of time focused the under 20s rather then fatigued them.

“Kilkenny are always a hard team to beat, so going up to Portloaise for the match we knew we had a big job to do but in fairness, that's the position we wanted to be in. After the loss I couldn't wait to go out again and get another go. It definitely helps with that sort of loss, we didn't have time to think about anything, only beating Kilkenny.

“I think on the day, I noticed a big difference anyway in comparison with the Munster Final. Our work-rate was huge, our forwards were putting in a savage felt like it was ten times as good as what it was against Tipp.

“When your forwards are working hard like that and winning ball and scoring it makes it a lot easier then in the full back line!” fullback Keating concludes with a smile.

Keating is no stranger to big match days; the Kildorrery native was in defense for the Cork minor team who lost the All-Ireland Final to Galway in 2017, with no fewer then ten players starting in the semi-final win over Kilkenny three weeks ago who were also on the starting 15 two years ago.

“We're a long time playing together,” reflects Keating, “and that makes a big difference.

“That loss to Galway was awful - you finally get to exactly where you want to be at the start of the year, the final in Croke Park, and then to lose, it's not good. But we've learned a lot in the few years since, we've obviously got a lot more experience since then, played a lot more and we're a few years older, so you can't really compare the two.”

Denis Ring was manager of that minor team and will be on the sideline in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday after progressing with this team from minor manager to the under 20s.

“Denis has been with us a long time now, he's overseen this group for four years running. We want to win it for ourselves but we want to do it for him too.

“The amount of work he puts in is unreal, he's be up every night going over video footage – he leaves no stone unturned! So it's as important to do it for him after everything he's been through with us and everything he has given.”

During that minor championship in 2017, Cork and Tipperary played each other twice, the first time in a drawn Munster semi-final before they eventually succumbed to the Rebels in front of 10,000 spectators at Páirc Uí Rinn just five days later.

They were two pulsating encounters that enthralled fans from start to finish, while this year's Munster Final was no different, and Saturday's contest is a mouth-watering prospect between two thrilling teams that both contain talent in abundance from 1 to 15.

Tipp, for their part, have three players who were involved in the county's senior win against Kilkenny last Sunday; Jake Morris came on as a substitute in the second half, Jerome Cahill was an unused substitute while Paddy Cadell was on the extended senior panel with all three set to start on Saturday against Cork.

The trio also all featured in last year's Under 21 All-Ireland Final when Tipperary beat Cork, despite Cork having hammered Tipp in the Munster Final a month previously.

“That's obviously a huge boost for them in Tipp,” says Keating, “they'll be buzzing down there all this week but the lads will be preparing this week as well for the game cause they'll want to get the double, everyone in Tipp will be behind them.”

Keating admits his ownpreparations for Saturday will take on a slightly more subdued tone and he will be giving a helping hand at the family farm: “I’m just getting on with it and being put to work at home! At this stage you just want to get out there and play but you have to bide your time.”

The 2019 Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling Under 20 All-Ireland Final takes place on Saturday 24 August at the LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Throw-in between Cork and Tipperary is at 5pm.

A bumper crowd is expected for the match with patrons being encouraged to pre-purchase their tickets through the Munster GAA website to avoid delays ahead of the match on the night.

Louise Cashell

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