Unlike a fortnight ago when the Cork hurlers and footballers were forced to line out at Croke Park on separate days, common sense, thankfully, has prevailed this weekend. Two Cork teams playing back-to-back at the one venue on the same day. Scheduling can be rather simple when done right.
And what an important day tomorrow is for Cork football in this restorative summer it has been having, with both their minor and U20 sides in action. 2016 was the last time a Cork minor football team been involved in an All-Ireland quarter-final, the same year a Cork U20/21 team contested an All-Ireland semi-final.
Bobbie O’Dwyer and his minor charges have had five weeks to themselves since the narrow Munster final loss, a performance, no doubt, they will be looking to build upon against Ulster champions Monaghan (throw-in 6pm). Chatting to reporters after the provincial decider, O’Dwyer was confident these Cork minors would benefit and improve from playing deep into summer. But by how much, we do not yet know.
The first of the Cork teams in action at Tullamore’s O’Connor Park is Keith Ricken’s U20 side (throw-in 4pm), who have had a much quicker turnaround from their stunning Munster final victory over Kerry just 10 days ago.
Ricken has welcomed the decision by fixture-makers to put the two Cork matches on back-to-back at the Offaly venue.
“As an association, we don’t do enough of that,” the Cork U20 boss began. “There is a guy a few doors up from me and he follows every Cork football match there is. And there are plenty more people in that bracket.
“It is lovely for these people to get to see two Cork teams in action together. The two teams have often trained side-by-side in Cork IT and so it is nice that they’ll be able to support one another on Sunday. I hope it will be a nice occasion for Cork football, and, of course, a positive one.”
Such was the manner of their display at Páirc Uí Rinn on Thursday week last, not to mind the unexpected margin of victory, Ricken’s young charges, to no great surprise, were resident on cloud nine long after their 3-16 to 0-12 thumping of Kerry. And Ricken is happy for them to soak in the success.
“I am always of the belief that with young men you want to give them confidence and to teach them how to fly. If you teach them how to fly, you don’t then shoot them down. Bringing them back down to earth is the last place, maybe, I want them. I want them thinking positively because what they achieved, they achieved themselves.
“I don’t think we should be punishing them on their achievements. We should be praising their achievements and they should bask in their achievements. But, also, use that achievement as a stepping stone. There is no doubt the boys are delighted with their Munster championship. It is an honour to have a Munster medal. But the best honour is for the team to maximise its potential.
“Now, we don’t know what that is yet. We’d like to go as far in the competition as we can, playing as well as we can. The lads have said their aim is to try and get to and win the final. They agreed that themselves. A team must agree its own goals. We have a very tough game against Tyrone now.”
The northerners chalked up 4-13 in the Ulster final and so Ricken isn’t expecting to run into the largely ‘negative’ approach often favoured by the county’s seniors.
“This kind of myth of negative football, I don’t see that. Tyrone play very good football,” he said.
“They get good scores in all their matches. If they were playing negative football, they wouldn’t be doing that. They are slightly more defensive at times, but needs must. They play very similar to Kerry in lots of ways. I was very impressed with their comprehensive win over a very good Derry side. Tyrone will be formidable.”
Returning to his own side, Ricken added: “Confidence after a win or confidence after playing well is flaky enough. There is no depth to it. Confidence comes from everybody and to know that you have within your arsenal the ability to solve problems.
“So when you wake up the day of the match, you are fairly confident that whatever the day throws at you, you probably have the skillset to get over it. That is the confidence I hope our lads will have.”