Composure key for Cleary’s charges

In times past, the winners of a Cork-Kerry Munster U21 football quarter-final could be almost assured of a provincial title.

Such has been Tipperary’s progress at underage level, however, that the Rebels can take little for granted ahead of tonight’s Munster final in Semple Stadium (7.30pm). It’s something Cork manager John Cleary is only too aware of.

“They have been working for a very long time to improve, and it’s beginning to pay dividends,” he said.

“I think they have beaten Cork in three of the last four meetings at minor. They won the 2011 All-Ireland minor title and the Munster U21 the year before that, and they were doing well at U16 level too. We know they are a very formidable side and we’ll have our work cut out.”

The flipside of Tipperary’s rise though, means they are far from an unknown quantity, meaning Cork will not be complacent.

“When we sat down at the start of the year,” Cleary said, “we felt that if we got over Kerry in the quarter-final then Tipperary would be a big stumbling block further down the line.

“Once we came off the field after beating Limerick in the semi, we were completely focused on playing Tipp. An away game in Thurles, it couldn’t be more difficult, and if we don’t produce a big performance it won’t do.”

Cork scraped through the quarter-final following a Kingdom comeback — sub Seán Kiely, who starts tonight, with the late winner — and then had nine points to spare over Limerick without ever hitting the heights. In other years, Cork have put in big performances without then following them up, such as two years ago when Kerry were beaten 2-24 to 0-8 in the Munster final only for Galway to then overcome the Rebels in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Cleary is looking for his side to produce on a more consistent basis, but acknowledges the result is more important than the display.

“At times we were in control against Kerry, but we let things slip and then just got over the line,” he said.

“We need to improve, but what we have shown is that the lads have kept their composure during games and rectified things when we needed to.

“We’ve been working on a few things, there had been problems around the middle and with taking goal chances, but if we beat Tipp by a point, I’ll be absolutely delighted.”

The lack of panic comes from the cohesion provided by the bulk of the panel being so familiar with each other. Ten of tonight’s 15 began the 2010 All-Ireland minor final against Tyrone, while eight of the team were starters against Kerry in last year’s Munster U21 decider.

“There’s a fair bit of experience there and I think that stands to them when push has come to shove,” said Cleary.

“Against Kerry, there was never any panic even when they came back at us, we just tried to work the ball up into a scoring position, nobody went for glory and then Seán took the chance when he got it.

“It’s something that’s very important and we’re hopeful that we can call on it again.”

CORK U21: D Hanrahan (Douglas); T Clancy (Clonakilty), C Dorman (Bishopstown), A Cronin (Nemo Rangers); TJ Brosnan (Newmarket), D Cahalane (Castlehaven), J Wall (Kilbrittain); J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers), I Maguire (St Finbarr’s); A Cadogan (Douglas), M Sugrue (Bandon), S Kiely (Ballincollig); D Mac Eoin (Ilen Rovers), B Hurley (Castlehaven), L Connolly (Nemo Rangers).

TIPPERARY U21: G Slattery (Cashel King Cormacs); N O’Sullivan (Moycarkey-Borris), D Kearney (Clonmel Óg), C O’Sullivan (Galtee Rovers); N O’Meara (Kilruane MacDonaghs), S Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials), P Dalton (Arravale Rovers); S O’Brien (Ballina), D Fitzell (Cashel King Cormacs); B Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), I Fahey (Clonmel Commercials), D Leahy (Arravale Rovers); L McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), M Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials), S Leahy (Arravale Rovers).

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