All-Ireland was always Rebel target

CADBURY'S ALL-IRELAND U21FC SEMI-FINAL:

All-Ireland was always Rebel target

Having spent most of Wednesday afternoon attempting to pin down the Cork U21 football boss, Hayes returns one of the many missed calls just as yours truly is heading through the turnstile at Cusack Park, Ennis for the Munster minor quarter-final.

Hayes, as luck would have it, is venturing to Páirc Uí Rinn for Cork’s clash with Limerick, hoping also to squeeze in a gym visit, and so a 10pm phone call is agreed upon. Needless to add the number of inter-county bosses willing to field a call at that hour wouldn’t require the use of two hands.

Indeed, our conversation is several minutes old before today’s All-Ireland semi-final is discussed. Hayes enquires about the strength of Kerry’s latest minor crop, lamenting the non-contest that was Cork’s facile victory over Limerick.

Parked on the side of the M18 motorway just north of the Limerick tunnel and quite conscious of the time, the interview, if that’s what you can call it, is moved along.

The provincial final win over Tipperary represented Cork’s fourth on the hop and yet All-Ireland success has eluded the Rebels during this period. Hayes acknowledges ambitions have heightened.

“When you take on a job like this the goal is to win the All-Ireland,” he said.

“There are five steps along the way. If you don’t win the other four you don’t get a chance at step five. Saturday is stage four and that is our sole focus.”

Cork bore the tag of favourites in recent Clarke Cup sojourns, but were twice thwarted by underrated Galway outfits (2011 semi-final and 2013 final). Understandable then that he would be wary of Connacht opposition.

“This Roscommon side were unlucky against Galway in last year’s Connacht final, they only lost in extra-time and every Cork person saw first-hand Galway’s strength later in the competition.

“Roscommon have had very good minor teams these last few years and ran Tipperary very close in the corresponding minor fixture three years ago so while we are a coming team, Roscommon would have a bit more pedigree.

“From what we have seen on video, they are very impressive and have some very threatening forwards. The two corner-forwards, Diarmuid Murtagh and Enda Smith, are quite dangerous. They are very physical. It is a different challenge for we won’t have met this kind of opposition before so that is what it is all about.”

Returning closer to home, a problem of this Cork outfit has been their failure to put teams away when enjoying total dominance. Kerry held a 2-4 to 0-7 interval advantage in their Munster quarter-final meeting, the point to note here, however, is that Cork ruled those first 30 minutes with an iron fist.

“What you have to consider there is that was your first match, so you learn a lot that night. The way we played in the second-half made up for the way we played in the first-half.

“In the Tipp game we played very well in the first-half, but conceded a goal three minutes before half-time that allowed Tipperary come back into it when they were dead and buried. We just have to learn from those games and score more when we are on top.

“At the moment we are winning and that is the main thing.

“The Munster final was a very big challenge so to let in three goals and still beat them was great. Obviously we don’t want to be conceding goals like that again, added to the two we leaked against Kerry. That is something we have worked on. When Tipperary came back at us we showed the character that we had shown below in Tralee to pull us through and they are the positives.”

Five of Hayes’ panel — Conor Dorman, Mark Sugrue, Cathal Vaughan, Brian O’ Driscoll and Kevin Crowley — are doubling up with Brian Cuthbert’s senior squad and the Nemo Rangers man says training with the county’s elite has hugely benefited the quintet involved.

“It is great encouragement to know that they are good enough for senior when they are U21. I think the Mayo game was the last senior game played involving our lads. We have been left on our own of late and the lads have been in great fettle.”

Asked if he harboured aspirations of continuing with this crop to senior level, Hayes offers a swift response.

“If we lose on Saturday you may delete my number,” he laughs. “I came in for this year and I don’t intend to hang around.”

Conversation ended, the time, well we’ll just say an unreasonable hour.

CORK (V ROSCOMMON): M Martin (Nemo Rangers); J Davis (Douglas), C Dorman (Bishopstown), S Cronin (Nemo Rangers); B O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCárthaigh), S White (Clonakilty), K Crowley (Millstreet); K Fulignati (Nemo Rangers), I Maguire (St. Finbarr’s); K O’Hanlon (Kilshannig), M Sugrue (Bandon), S Kiely (Ballincollig); D MacEoin (Ilen Rovers) J Corkery (Aghabullogue), A Cadogan (Douglas).

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