Collins keen to atone for last year

THERE may be suggestions Cork are hampered by the lack of a competitive game entering tonight’s Munster U21FC semi-final against Tipperary, but attacker Mark Collins offers a different opinion.

Collins was one of 10 members of the Cork U21 squad who endured a punishing schedule before UCC claimed Sigerson Cup honours at the start of the month and they could have had to face into a provincial quarter-final just four days after their final triumph over UUJ.

The bye into the Munster semi-final gave the UCC contingent a chance to re-energise before focusing on U21 duties.

“Obviously, when you win the Sigerson Cup it’s a huge achievement and you have a few days of celebrations”, states Collins. “It would have been very tough to face into an U21 semi-final the following Wednesday. For those of us involved with UCC, it was a heavy schedule and it was good then to have a bit of time to get back with the U21’s. So, in that way, I think it can work to our advantage. We’ve had a chance to look at Tipp as well when they beat Waterford.”

A strong desire exists in the Cork camp to atone for last year’s early U21 exit when they were thumped by Kerry.

“We never got going that day at all”, reflects Collins. “We were totally dead, it’s difficult to explain it. We beat Kerry well in 2009 and then, after the same preparation in 2010, were well defeated against Kerry. There’s big motivation amongst those of us in our final U21 year to perform. The minors from last year that have come into the squad have brought new life to the setup.”

The format at U21 level has been altered this year with games switched from Saturday afternoons to Wednesday nights, a decision that Collins welcomes.

“I remember two years ago we played Tipperary on a Saturday down in Thurles and there was no atmosphere at the game at all. I think playing games under lights on Wednesday nights will add to the atmosphere a lot. You’ll have a lot of college students around who’ll come to watch the game and you’d have a greater chance of a bigger crowd and a better occasion.”

The flip side of midweek games is the greater difficulty in assembling players given their college commitments. Kerry boss John Kennedy has faced that challenge ahead of their trip to the Gaelic Grounds for tonight’s other Munster U21 semi-final.

“Home advantage is a big help, particularly at underage level when the games are being held midweek. In our squad, we’ve guys in various colleges in Cork, Tralee and Limerick. So we’ll set off with our Kerry-based squad players and we’ve pick-up points in Kerry before heading to Limerick.

“The lads in UCC and CIT will travel together from Cork, and we’ll all convene in Limerick with the lads based in Limerick colleges. It’s one of those factors you’ve to get used to.”

Kennedy will be drilling into his players the importance of not taking their opponents lightly and can cite a perfect example in the shape of last year’s shock final defeat by Tipperary.

“It was certainly disappointing last year. Having beaten Cork and Waterford so convincingly, I think complacency may have entered the equation with supporters and that filtered through a bit to the players. The game was a lesson in that if you’re not properly focused, you’ll come up short. The standards have levelled off at U21 grade all over the country and Munster is representative of that. After losing to Tipperary last year, the players know they have to perform when we face Limerick.”

Both Limerick and Tipperary have named unchanged teams for tonight’s semi-finals from the sides that defeated Clare and Waterford respectively in their quarter-final ties. Tipperary’s Alan Moloney has recovered from injury and will take his place amongst the Premier substitutes.

LIMERICK U21F: B Scanlon (Gerald Griffin’s); P Martin (Ballybricken), M Sheehan (Fr Casey’s), R O’Flaherty (St Senan’s); P Sheehan (St Mary’s/Sean Finn’s-Rathkeale), P Hannon (Newcastlewest), P Quinn (Monaleen); T McCarthy (Mountcollins), P Horan (Glin); S O’Carroll (Cappagh), J Kelly (Newcastlewest), D Kelly (Fr Casey’s); P O’Donnell (Galbally), J Donovan (Galbally), E O’Connor (St Mary’s/Sean Finn’s-Rathkeale). Subs: D O’Sullivan (Monaleen), E Cahill (Mungret), A Morrissey (Croom), A O’Sullivan (Bruff), D Nolan (St Kieran’s), P Scanlon (Glin), J Richardson (Claughaun), D Woods (Newcastlewest), P O’Connor (Camogue Rovers).

TIPPERARY U21F: J English (Ballyporeen); R Kiely (Arravale Rovers), J Ryan (Ardfinnan), M Hanly (Aherlow); D Leahy (Arravale Rovers), E Kenrick (Cahir), J O’Callaghan (Ballyporeen); D Heffernan (Cappawhite), P Acheson (Moyle Rovers); B Hewitt (Ardfinnan), T Hanly (Aherlow), A Matassa (Clonmel Commercials); C Sweeney (Ballyporeen), D Butler (Drom & Inch), D McGrath (Moyle Rovers).

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