The Cork U21s travel to Walsh Park tomorrow evening for a Munster semi-final meeting with the reigning All-Ireland champions and such is the buzz surrounding Cork hurling, that a crowd in excess of 8,000 is expected.
The Cork minors bridged a nine-year gap to the county’s last provincial success at that grade on Sunday, while John Meyler’s U21s are attempting to end a 10-year wait for Munster U21 honours.
“We are well aware that everything Cork is touching at the moment is turning to hurling gold,” says Sean Power.
“That’s largely because their club structure is strong and over the last couple of years, the Cork underage structure has been put on the right track again.
“We here in Waterford and, indeed, the wider hurling public were surprised they were away for so long. When I say that they were away, I don’t mean any disrespect, but in the Cork sense of a couple of years. You expect Cork to be always there.
“There demolition of Clare in last Sunday’s minor final and a fantastic showing by their seniors tells you that they are back on top. They are the talk of the hurling town. They’ve done things right the past couple of years and they’re now beginning to see the fruits of that.”
A dozen members of Kieran Kingston’s senior panel will feature for the Rebel U21s tomorrow, including Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Luke Meade and Shane Kingston, all of whom started the Munster final win. Power agrees that the Cork U21s resemble Waterford’s all-conquering U21 team of 12 months ago.
Waterford have seven players who saw action during their 5-15 to 0-14 All-Ireland final annihilation of Galway last September. They include Shane Bennett, Conor Gleeson and Patrick Curran.
“Some of the best hurling played this year has been produced by Cork U21 players,” Power continues.
“Shane Kingston, Luke Meade, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Mark Coleman are names that roll off the tongue at the moment. One or two of those lads are in the shake-up to be Young Hurler of the Year, in my opinion. We are well aware that what is coming to Walsh Park is of a significant class and quality.
“We just hope we will be ready.”
B Nolan (Roanmore); D Prendergast (Lismore), C Gleeson (Fourmilewater), D Lyons (Dungarvan); J Henley (Tallow), C Prunty (Abbeyside), C Lyons (Ballyduff Lower); A Molumby (Cappoquin), C Roche (Shamrocks); J Prendergast (Lismore), C Curran (Brickey Rangers), S Ryan (De La Salle); P Curran (Dungarvan), S Bennett (Ballysaggart), P Hogan (Ballygunner).