No room for distractions as Cork think positive

The all-too-familiar criticism surrounding Cork hurling’s underage plight was yet again dragged front and centre in the wake of the county’s Munster semi-final defeat to Waterford earlier this month.

No room for distractions as Cork think positive

It was the very discussion which took place following the league final defeat at the beginning of May and, indeed, last year’s All-Ireland semi-final hammering at the hands of Tipperary.

And reference, no doubt, will again be made to the county’s abysmal underage record since the turn of the millennium if the Cork U21’s come up short against Waterford in this evening’s Munster semi-final — the Rebels have never lost an U21 fixture at home to the Déise.

Manager Damien Irwin has heard it all before; no Munster minor since 2008, no All-Ireland minor since 2001, no Munster U21 since 2007 and no All-Ireland U21 since 1998.

Irwin doesn’t involve himself with statistics, falling graphs or near-misses. His sole concern is securing victory over Waterford and progressing to a Munster final. Mind you, it’s the most realistic approach in delaying the conversation for another few weeks at least.

“That discussion surrounding Cork’s underage record has been going on for a long time now. It tends to come out after big championship defeats, it is the same in all counties. I don’t have the time to be worrying about it, what we’ve won, haven’t won in the past,” he said.

“My time is focused on my players and readying them for this Munster semi-final.” And ready them he might, the Waterford team featuring four of the starting 15 from the senior win over Cork — Austin Gleeson, Tadhg de Búrca, Colin Dunford and Stephen Bennett.

Moreover, Shane Bennett, Tom Devine and Patrick Curran, all of whom came off the bench in Thurles two-weeks ago, are included. Such an array of senior inter-county talent sits in stark contrast to the Cork team which features just two members of Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s panel — Patrick Collins and Anthony Spillane, neither of whom have featured prominently this year.

“There is no doubt that there is more household names in their team. Their team and the figures it contains would be much better known than ours.

“These lads have enjoyed success with their seniors already this year, but every match must be treated in isolation. The beauty of every match is that it is different. I don’t believes those games will have much relevance on this fixture.” Nor does Irwin believe a single member of his squad will fear standing toe-to-toe with Gleeson, de Búrca, Bennett or Dunford.

“The great thing about working with younger players is that they no hold fear. They approach everything with enthusiasm and optimism. Their attitude is simply to get on with it.

“There is a great enthusiasm, great spirit and a very good bond in this panel which will be evident on Wednesday.” Aside from the aforementioned Spillane and goalkeeper Collins, midfielder Rickard Cahalane is the only member of the Cork team to have featured in last year’s Munster final loss to Clare. Trevor Horgan (shoulder), Cathal Cormack (pubic bone), Stephen Murphy (finger), Dillon Cahill (shoulder), Aaron Ward (hand) Barra O’Connell (hamstring) and Michael Cahalane are all ruled out through injury.

“The injury list is quite extensive and aside from Stephen Murphy, all of our injured players are forwards so that has really hit our forward division.”

Waterford boss Derek Lyons, meanwhile, is determined to secure the county’s first U21 championship victory in six-years.

“The most important history we have to make is to win a game, we haven’t done it since 2009 and we are focussed on that. We just have to win a game at this age-group; it’s criminal considering the quality of players that have come through.

“I am expecting the same kind of Cork performance that was in Walsh Park last year and annihilated a star-studded Waterford team with thirteen seniors involved.”

CORK:

P Collins (Ballinhassig); D Browne (Kanturk), A Dennehy (Charleville), S O’Donoghue (Inniscarra); D Noonan (Glen Rovers), C Twomey (Newtownshandrum), N Cashman (Blackrock); R Cahalane (Ballymartle), M Brennan (Fermoy); K O’Neill (Watergrasshill), K O’Connor (Mallow), D Casey (Charleville); M O’Connor (Douglas), A Spillane (Castlelyons), L Meade (Newcestown).

WATERFORD:

B Nolan (Roanmore); S McNulty (DLS), K Bennett (Ballysaggart), C Gleeson (Fourmilewater); M Harney (Bonmahon), T de Búrca (Clashmore/Kinsalebeg), Shane Bennett (Ballysaggart); A Gleeson (Mt Sion), T Devine (Modeligo); C Dunford (Colligan), Stephen Bennett (Ballysaggart), DJ Foran (Portlaw); R Donnelly (Dungarvan), C Curran (Brickey Rgrs), P Curran (Dungarvan).

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