Cork senior hurling manager John Meyler says any of the county U20s who “put up their hands” playing at that level can come into consideration for the senior side this season.
Cork beat Limerick in the Munster U20 quarter-final on Wednesday evening in Páirc Uí Rinn to set up a semi-final against Clare, and Meyler pointed out that a couple of the younger players are already involved with the senior team.
“Robert Downey was playing Wednesday night and he’s been with us all along, Ger Millerick is injured and has missed a lot of training but he’s come back in the last couple of weeks.
“Any of these guys put up their hands... there’s no problem there because you want those guys to be knocking on the door. There’s great talent there in the likes of Evan Sheehan, Dáire Connery, you’d be watching those guys, absolutely.”
Meyler has already welcomed a newcomer, with former Cork star Tom Kenny joining the Rebel backroom team last week.
“Tom’s someone who brings value to the set-up, he’s an experienced hurler who’s won two All-Irelands with Cork and he’s been involved with UCC’s Freshers team and Fitzgibbon team.
“Because of that, in terms of who he’s coached, he’s been involved with a lot of the lads in our set-up already. He brings that added value and he’s a good guy.”
Cork must plan without Aidan Walsh this weekend, however, as the former Young Footballer of the Year injured a finger last week.
“Aidan was back training this week in terms of physical training,” said Meyler. “But he was running, not hurling. We’re monitoring that with the medical team but he won’t be considered for the Westmeath game anyway.”
Meyler was in Croke Park last weekend to see Laois edge out Westmeath in the Joe McDonagh Cup final.
“I’d be familiar enough with Westmeath having been involved with Kerry in recent years, and they’ve really developed in recent years with Michael Ryan, Michael Walsh, and now Joe Quaid at the helm.
“I’m extremely wary of them, and playing Westmeath up in Mullingar is not going to be easy. They beat Kilkenny there in the Leinster U21 championship three years ago, and a lot of the players from that U21 side backbone the current senior team.
“They were impressive against Laois last Sunday for most of that game, so we’ll be treating the game this weekend with the utmost respect.
“You just need to do your job, that’s the attitude we’ll have to take.
“Guys will be told that and that’s what we have to do going forward, that’s what we have to do in a nutshell.
“But definitely the standard of hurling in the Joe McDonagh Cup final last Sunday was very good and very positive from both sides. Hurling is improving bit by bit in those competitions.”
What did the Cork manager - born in Wexford - make of the Leinster final which followed the Laois-Westmeath game?
“Our focus last weekend was on Westmeath-Laois, we’re not even thinking beyond that — if we win this weekend we’ll think about who we might face then,” said Meyler.
“As for the Leinster final, the criticism of Kilkenny towards the end . . . looking at it, TJ (Reid) had a free and went short to Colin Fennelly but the referee gave a free out.
“Later on Conor Fogarty was going down the left-hand side and tried to pick out Colin Fennelly but Liam Ryan made a brilliant interception, a bit like the Nickie Quaid flick on Seamus Harnedy last year in the All-Ireland semi-final.
“That was another critical element, because if Liam didn’t make that ball it was probably going to be a goal. So you could say that the Leinster final came down to a couple of critical incidents, the way most close games do.”
It was tighter than the Munster final, where Limerick had 12 points to spare over Tipperary.
“I think you have to look at the context of that one, Limerick went up to play Tipperary in Semple Stadium a few weeks ago and Declan Hannon wasn’t playing for Limerick, Graham Mulcahy, Cian Lynch, Gearoid Hegarty — all of them weren’t playing for Limerick.
“Then in that game Tipperary also lost Bonner Maher and Cathal Barrett in that game to injury. Bonner is the spiritual leader of that Tipperary team and has always been, he was a massive loss; Barrett the same, he’s an outstanding defender, and suddenly Tipperary are without two key players for the Munster final.
“Limerick, though, bring back those four players for the Munster final, so straightaway there’s a swing of six players, Limerick are at home in front of 44,000-odd people... they weren’t going to turn down that opportunity.
“I was surprised by the margin of victory, but the games are so fluid now, so up-and-down, that you shouldn’t be surprised by how they end up.”