The low expectation straddling the minor class of 2014 is hardly surprising when one considers the county’s poor success at this grade in recent times.
A Cork shirt last stood over the Tadhg Crowley Cup in 2010, the county’s most recent provincial final appearance back in 2011. Indeed, you’d have to revert to the turn of the millennium for the last occasion All-Ireland minor honours resided on Leeside.
Manager Donal O’Sullivan accepts his minor outfit are an afterthought in the eyes of many supporters, hardly surprising given the recent dominance of the Cork U21s and their impending All-Ireland semi-final, but says his players are determined to leave their mark on the 2014 championship — Munster and All-Ireland.
“Supporters may not expect much from these minors given recent campaigns, but that does not mean we do not expect a lot from ourselves,” O’Sullivan noted. “At the end of the day, this Cork team want to leave their own mark, they want to impress, they want to achieve.
“The county board also want us to achieve and we certainly haven’t been an afterthought in their eyes, they have been wholly supportive of our efforts.
“Cork football needs to be successful at this age group. Our ambition is to try and get to the latter stages of the competition.”
Never mind attempting to please high-maintenance Cork enthusiasts, O’Sullivan has had to play second fiddle to the various Cork colleges involved in All-Ireland competitions.
Four of the panel were central figures in Coláiste Choilm’s Paddy Drummond Cup final victory last Saturday, while several other nurseries also took from preparations. The net result is that the Limerick clash tonight will be the first occasion O’Sullivan has had his entire panel together.
“Michael Dineen was involved with Coláiste Ghobnatan and you had Seán Powter and Shane Kingston involved with Rochestown in the All-Ireland junior colleges. Add in players from Coláiste Chríost Rí, Fachtna’s, Skibbereen and DLS Macroom, who were involved in latter stages of Corn Uí Mhuirí. We also have lads on the Cork minor hurling panel.
“There are years when there are no players involved with colleges and then there are years, like this one, where there is a decent chunk of lads involved. Because of the low numbers, we tended to focus more on matches than training. One negative impact of lads coming and going is that you were putting out a different team every time for challenges and you couldn’t really get a settled team. You couldn’t focus on tactical preparation either.
“All that is part and parcel of minor football and we were fully aware of that when taking the reins.”
Three of this evening’s starting line-up — Seán Powter, Shane Kingston and Tom Bushe — are the most recent graduates of the Rebel Óg development squads and the Castletownbere native is confident the academy system will reap rich dividend.
“Having UCC and the Mardyke at our disposal is massive because guys are coming in with the right practices with regard to diet, nutrition and gym. They are learning at an early age what is required to play at inter-county level. They know the sacrifices that need to be made and are making them.”
The hosts will be expected to see this one out relatively comfortably, but don’t forget last year’s semi-final, where Tipperary scored a surprise three-point win over the Rebels.
On that basis alone, Cork manager Donal O’Sullivan will have his troops on high alert this evening.
Seán O’Donoghue and Cian Kiely return to action just four days on from their All-Ireland-winning exploits in Croker with Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig. Indeed O’Donoghue, alongside full-forward Michael Hurley, brother to Brian, will be expected to carry the home side’s scoring threat.
CORK (v Limerick): C O’Driscoll (Castlehaven); C O’Donovan (Clonakilty), K Flahive (Douglas), S Powter (Douglas); T Bushe (Ilen Rovers), D Meaney (St. Michael’s), C Kiely (Ballincollig); S O’Leary (Bantry Blues), B Coakley (Carrigaline); S O’Donoghue (Inniscarra), M Dineen (Naomh Abán), S Ronayne (Clyda Rovers); S Kingston (Douglas), M Hurley (Castlehaven), D Buckley (Ballyclough).
LIMERICK (v Cork): A Brudair (Newcastlewest); L O’Connell (Mungret), S Murphy (Newcastlewest), S Brosnan (Monagea); S Ivess (Newcastlewest), C Flanagan (Crecora), F O’Grady (Oola); T Childs (Galtee Gaels), M Reidy (Croom); M Morrissey (St. Marys/Sean Finns), R Hayes (St. Senans), K Daly (Na Pairsaigh); S Stack (Newcastlewest), C Burke (Crecora), K Ryan (Mungret).
Manager Jack O’Connor has named seven members of the Hogan Cup-winning Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne side in his starting line-up, and while fatigue is an issue, it is hard to envisage anything other than a Kerry win. The Kingdom were victorious by six points in last year’s meeting of the sides and a similar margin is again forecast.
Keep an eye out for the Kerry midfield partnership of Barry O’Sullivan and Mark O’Connor — names for the future.
CLARE (v Kerry): K Normoyle (Lissycasey); B Cahill (Lissycasey), P Lillis (Cooraclare), J Woods (Éire Óg); C O’Dea (Kilfenora), C Pyne (Killimer), C O’Hanafin (Éire Óg); N McCarthy (Lissycasey), C Hanrahan (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield); C Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane), E Courtney (Éire Óg), A Rudd (Wolfe Tones); C Finucane (Lissycasey), D Duffy (Kilfenora), A Davidson (St Breckans).
KERRY (v Clare): S Ryan (Rathmore); J Morgan (Austin Stacks), B Begley (An Ghaeltacht), T O’Sullivan (Dingle); J Foley (Ballydonoghue), A Barry (Na Gaeil), B Sugrue (Renard); B O’Sullivan (Dingle) M O’Connor (Dingle); M Flaherty (Dingle), B Rayle (Lispole), M Burns (Dr Crokes); J Kiely (Dr Crokes), K Spillane (Templenoe), C Bambury (Dingle).
Probably the toughest of the three games to call. Tipp enter the clash as marginal favourites, but home advantage at this age group is always a huge boost. Tipperary’s Jack Brady, Danny Owens, Paul Maher and captain Willie Connors are the surviving quartet from last year’s Munster final defeat and Connors, a hugely talented centre-back, could be the defensive rock that Waterford perish on.
TIPPERARY (v Waterford): J Brady (Ballina); D Owens (Moyle Rovers), L Ryan (Clonmel Commercials), Colm O’Shaughnessy (Ardfinnan); W Connors (Kildangan), Cathal O’Mahony (St. Patricks), J Skehan (Holycross-Ballycahill); T Nolan (Drom and Inch), S Quirke (Moyle Rovers); Emmet Maloney (Drom and Inch), P White (Clonmel Commercials), Ross Peters (Clonmel Commercials); J Bergin (JK Brackens), J Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials), P Maher (Kilsheelan).
WATERFORD (v Tipperary): K Dwane (Ballinacourty); C O’Neill (Brickey Rangers), J Guiry (Nire), D Kirwan (Dungarvan); M Shine (Ballinameela), E O’Halloran (Clashmore Kinsalebeg), J Mullaney (Stradbally); C Curran (Brickey Rangers), C Prunty (Ballinacourty); A Donnelly (Dungarvan), C Murray (Rathgormack), J Allen (Dungarvan); D Guiry (Nire), C Gleeson (Nire), D Lyons (Dungarvan).