Ring backs U21 stars to bounce back from senior heartache

They are, of course, still hurting from the defeat to Limerick, but Denis Ring has been urging the senior panelists in his Cork U21 squad to use that pain to their advantage against Wexford in this afternoon’s All-Ireland semi-final against Wexford.

Ring backs U21 stars to bounce back from senior heartache

They are, of course, still hurting from the defeat to Limerick, but Denis Ring has been urging the senior panelists in his Cork U21 squad to use that pain to their advantage against Wexford in this afternoon’s All-Ireland semi-final against Wexford.

As former Cork hurler Tom Kenny noted in these pages on Tuesday, it isn’t often you get the opportunity less than one week later to contest another All-Ireland semi-final and prove you are capable of making that step to a decider.

Cork’s Mark Coleman ahead of the Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U-21 HC semi-final against Wexford in Nowlan Park today. Pic: Brendan Moran
Cork’s Mark Coleman ahead of the Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U-21 HC semi-final against Wexford in Nowlan Park today. Pic: Brendan Moran

From Ring’s squad which will today bid to secure Cork’s first All-Ireland U21 hurling final appearance in 20 years, Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, and Shane Kingston started last week’s 3-32 to 2-31 extra-time reverse to Limerick.

Robbie O’Flynn, Tim O’Mahony, and Jack O’Connor were used off the bench, Ger Collins was part of the match-day 26, while David Griffin is a member of the extended panel.

That’s half of Ring’s starting team who would have spent the earlier part of the week — and probably still are — ruing over what might have been.

“It is a challenge,” said Ring of the quick turnaround his players have faced.

“But in fairness to the lads, their body language and everything they are doing and saying is positive. It looks good from that perspective.

“You won’t know until you go out and take the pitch on Saturday, of course.

“The lads realise the opportunity that is in front of them. It isn’t too often you play one semi-final, it doesn’t go right for you, and six days later, you have the chance to correct it.

"That’s how they are looking at it. It is not too often you get to rectify something within a week.

“In our two previous championship matches, they’ve come from playing senior on a Sunday and then played U21 on a Wednesday. They are familiar with the routine.

Notably, though, the two previous times, they came back to us off the back of senior victories. They are coming from a defeat this time.”

Ring added: “They can take an awful lot of positives from that match last week. Those U21 lads performed very well in it.

"They can look back on it with a lot of personal satisfaction with regard to their performances, while at the same time, being disappointed with the result.”

Darragh Fitzgibbon, having contributed four points from play, was immense for John Meyler’s team before being forced off with injury.

Ring said the Charleville midfielder took full part in their recovery session on Monday and field session on Tuesday, allaying fears that he may be doubtful for today’s game.

The seniors’ defeat offered a timely reminder to Ring’s young charges the importance of backing up provincial endeavours.

As impressive and all as their 2-23 to 1-13 hammering of Tipperary was — a game where 10 different Cork players were on the scoresheet — it won’t count for much if they lose today.

“Anytime you play Tipperary and beat them quite well, it does raise expectation. Whatever people’s expectations are of us, we always have high expectations of ourselves.

"Our expectation is that we have to go and deliver a performance whereby all the things we say we want to do, we have to go and do.

The lads know outside expectations are irrelevant to the process on the day of the match. All we can do is control getting fellas ready, getting fellas right, getting a game-plan ready and hopefully, implementing that on the day. That is our job.

“This is knockout stuff. This is winner-takes-all. Everything about the last few weeks has been about preparing for Wexford. We are looking forward to this.”

Returning one final time to last weekend’s game in GAA HQ, it didn’t pass Ring’s attention the amount of U21 winners who were part of Limerick’s starting team (11) or called down from the stand (three) by John Kiely.

Clare, Waterford and the Treaty county have all reached All-Ireland senior deciders off the back of U21 success in recent years and the hope is that Cork can follow a similar path with this crop.

As Mark Coleman pointed out on Wednesday, it is about creating a winning culture from as early an age as possible.

“Success breeds success. Fellas get confidence from it. To know every year that you were there to the last weekend or day of the U21 championship, whether you win or not, you are a player who then has the full range of experience from that competition,” Ring continued.

“It is great for this Cork U21 team to get to August. It hasn’t happened in a long time. From that sense, that’s experience. Now, of course, you can’t beat winning.

“You can see the confidence the Limerick guys coming on had. It does give you that little bit of self-belief.”

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