Fitzgerald aims to lift gloom around Rebel County

AFTER the senior outfit’s abrupt championship exit last Saturday and the county minors finished for the summer also, the 2011 aspirations of Cork hurling rest with the U21s tonight.

Amongst supporters this game has assumed extra significance but for manager Ger Fitzgerald it is no more important than when he began plotting their preparations for the clash several months ago.

“It’s always been a very significant game for us, that hasn’t increased or decreased over the last few weeks,” he said.

“The way that we’re thinking is that it’s a massive game for us to be facing the reigning All-Ireland champions and that’s been the way ever since the draw was made six months ago. We’ve been close over the last few years but the more important thing tonight is we concentrate on performing.”

A couple of injuries aside, Fitzgerald is pleased with his team’s condition and Aidan Walsh’s availability, who did not feature in last year’s U21 championship, is a major boost.

“We’re happy with our team. We’ve cast the net wide this year and did a fairly exhaustive search for players. The two injuries we’ve picked up in Pat O’Brien and Ciarán Sheehan were blows but at least they happened a few weeks ago. We’ve had time to adjust since then.

“We’re very pleased to have everyone who is eligible and certainly Aidan is a big addition. He doesn’t have a mad amount of hurling done but he’s very talented and the overall big-game experience that he brings to the team is absolutely huge.”

Tipperary boss Ken Hogan is able to welcome back key attacker Kieran Morris who shone earlier this year for UL en route to their Fitzgibbon Cup triumph. But Thurles Sarsfields’ player Denis Maher is out. Hogan admitted he was relieved to survive in the quarter-final after Waterford produced a ferocious second-half comeback.

“We weren’t at our best but we were glad to get over the line. The goals were key. It was our first game, and there were a lot of club and championship games before that, so it wasn’t easy. In the second-half Waterford produced a brilliant rally and we lost our shape as players got tired. We were delighted with the win in the finish and it was a learning curve for us.”

He is wary of the challenge posed by tonight’s opponents in Semple Stadium.

“There’s only been a puck of a ball between the teams over the last few years and I don’t expect that to change now. Any bit of knowledge is an advantage and Cork were able to see us against Waterford, so they’ll fancy themselves to do well against us. Aidan Walsh playing for Cork this year is a huge boost to them as well.”

CORK U21H: D McCarthy; C Joyce, E Finn, S Corry; J Nagle, W Egan, M Ellis; S O’Farrell, D Roche; D Brosnan, C Lehane, A Walsh; L O’Farrell, M O’Sullivan, J Coughlan.

TIPPERARY U21H: P Ryan; C Haugh, K O’Gorman, S O’Brien; B Stapleton, P Heffernan, J Barry; N McGrath, A Ryan; S Curran, P Murphy, B O’Meara; K Morris, J O’Neill, J O’Dwyer.

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