Anthony Daly: It’s only a matter of time before Cork are winning senior All-Irelands

Cork have always had an abundance of talent but now that they are finding players with the right mix of skill and character, the last two Cork U20 teams have turned into a real force
Anthony Daly: It’s only a matter of time before Cork are winning senior All-Irelands

Cork's Brian Hayes, Michael Mullins, and Daniel Hogan celebrate winning the Munster U20 hurling title. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

In his post-match interview on TG4 after Wednesday night’s game, Cork coach Donal O’Mahony spoke about this team’s attitude and philosophy, and their desire to show that this is a ‘different’ Cork team.

Cork have always had an abundance of talent but now that they are finding players with the right mix of skill and character, the last two Cork U20 teams have turned into a real force. And they definitely are ‘different’.

Cork only won by two points but if they had taken their chances, they’d have won by a far bigger margin. You have to give huge credit to Limerick for the character they showed but hurling can be a crazy game if one crowd doesn’t put the other away.

Cork’s half-back line and full-forward lines were dominant, which gave them a huge platform throughout. Padraig Power scored 1-5 but he could have ended with 3-4, with one shot cleared off the line and another goal-shot deflected over the bar.

Cathal O’Neill may have scored 0-15 but he didn’t exert the kind of dominance that you’d think he did against that Cork half-back line. At the other end, Limerick’s other big name — Colin Coughlan — wasn’t dominating either. But you’d have to give a lot of credit to Cork for their tactical engagement because they seemed to keep the play away from Coughlan.

Cork had all the big performers. Jimmy Quilty started really well at midfield for Limerick but Sam Quirke thundered into the match and was superb. Darragh Flynn was brilliant too with 0-5 from play, 0-12 in total. Ciaran Joyce embellished a burgeoning reputation with another standout display in defence.

All of those guys had the experience of winning an All-Ireland U20 title a few weeks ago and are surfing that huge wave of confidence. Having another final in less than two weeks confirms how much of a roll these guys are on.

You have to give massive credit to Pat Ryan and his management team for how they have moulded and shaped these players, especially when they weren’t successful at minor level. They are working with really talented hurlers, but they have got the mix right and, more importantly, Pat and his management have infused these guys with huge belief and confidence.

Limerick will be disappointed but it’s not all about winning underage titles. You saw John Kiely in the stand watching on and, while O’Neill and Coughlan have already played senior, John will have targeted another couple of players to bring into his squad next year. The luxury Kiely has at the moment is he doesn’t have to rush any of these guys in because his senior panel is so settled, and competition for places in the squad is so ferocious. What’s more, any young player who does come in appreciates that he has to bide his time.

Some of these young Cork players will be senior hurlers shortly and it’s only a matter of time before Cork are winning senior All-Irelands. Their minors beat another good young Limerick team on Tuesday night, a week after hammering Clare by 40 points.

The U20s will be fancied to win successive All-Irelands but you can only imagine how strong this team would be if they had Shane Barrett and Alan Connolly, who can’t play because of their involvement with the senior team.

I just think that is a crazy rule and unfair on those two young fellas. Those two lads only came on in Cork’s senior games against Limerick and Clare, with Connolly only being introduced against Limerick with time almost up.

On the otherhand, it given an opportunity for other young Cork players to step up. And they clearly are.

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