The red wave is coming, writes Peter McNamara.
John Meyler has spoken of the need for Cork to dine at the top table.
Well, those days are just around the corner. The talent pool on Leeside from minor level upwards is exceptional and that point was copper-fastened in Nowlan Park last Saturday.
Denis Ring’s U21 side possesses players capable of becoming legendary men at senior level for Cork.
All throughout the team this summer the Rebels have proven their worth in a competition that is of the utmost importance in terms of judging whether or not a player has what it takes to really make his mark at the senior grade.
Take Declan Dalton, for instance.
Since he stuck that penalty against Waterford in the Munster U21 HC last year, he has been on the radar of the public.
Yet, Dalton has not rested on his laurels and, in fact, has developed further as a top-class attacker.
He reminds of Niall McCarthy, he has that grit about him that all teams require.
He scored 0-8 against Wexford including six converted frees before being stretchered off late in the day. That was, obviously, extremely unfortunate.
Yet, Dalton has the brightest of futures in front of him provided he remains level-headed. And, to be fair, he does not seem to be the type of character that would become cocky about his progression in any way regardless so the world is his oyster.
In fact, the Fr O’Neill’s star has the potential to be a future Hurler of the Year because you can see Cork winning three of the next seven or eight All-Ireland SHC titles if these guys train on. And there is no reason why they will not do so.
I appreciate that is a bold statement and some might think it is ludicrous. However, this particular U21 team, coupled with the finest players already in situ at senior level, will be extremely difficult to stop in the coming years.
Jack O’Connor is another with a growing reputation. Does it faze him? Not one bit, it seems. And he complemented a might offensive display of craft and guile with four clinical points in open play.
If Ring’s outfit go on to land the All-Ireland crown it could spark an avalanche of success at the highest rung of the ladder, in time.
And, even though we all understand sport is not an exact science, on a line of form through Wexford, Cork should have the Tribesmen’s measure if they overcome a Tipp side the Leesiders have already hammered in the provincial decider, in the other All-Ireland semi-final tonight at the Gaelic Grounds.
Earning an All-Ireland U21 title will give these individuals untold confidence.
As it is, they do not seem to lack for self-belief. However, winning the final of this competition will take them to another level of terms of stature.
Cork hurling is on the verge of a golden period. For the last few years we have argued here that things were not as bad as they appeared when everybody was panicking thinking the Rebels were falling far behind the posse.
Now the time has come to really get excited about the future because the future’s red. Obviously, the All-Ireland SHC is ridiculously competitive and Cork will not have anything easy.
Nevertheless, it would come as a shock if the Liam McCarthy Cup was not an intermittent visitor to Leeside throughout the next seven or eight years.
Cork could make hay in that timespan. The playing tools are arriving to supplement the excellence of the present senior team and, with a bit of patience, the fusion of those elements will result in great days for the code in this county.
Put it this way, I have never been more enthused about the medium-term future of the game on Leeside as I am now. And this is not unnecessary hyperbole because, if you have read this column previously, you will know that hyperbole is never splashed on this page.
Yet, sometimes you simply cannot play down the magnificence of the standard you see before you and that is certainly the case with Ring’s charges, a number of whom Meyler had himself at the same grade last year.
The likes of Darragh Fitzgibbon has the talent to be a multiple All-Star, too.
The pace of the man, everybody knows, is frightening. But there is an evolving facet to his game that is also really encouraging and that is his game-intelligence.
Like Mark Coleman, his reading of the game is incredible. He sees things others miss and it enables him to pick up excellent positions when Cork are in possession, and even when they are without it.
You would also have to appreciate the depth of quality in Ring’s squad. Conor Cahalane, for example, entering the fray and pitching in with 0-4 in open play.
Now, you could argue the game was over and quite loose and, therefore, it was easier for him to pick off scores.
Yet, it was the nature of his execution which caught the eye. There was authority in his decision-making and shot-taking.
Aaron Myers is another man that people here would be aware of but one that has the tools to become a household name nationwide. And yet, he only made the bench. That is a scary concept given his brilliance, even if some might suggest his form was sketchy in the last 18 months or so, by his outrageous standards.
From this point on the People’s Republic can be more than hopeful of Cork claiming All-Ireland success at senior level.
In fact, from this point on, you can begin to expect it, frankly.