It should come as no surprise that Kerry’s dominance over Cork at minor level is mirrored on the schools front.

The Kingdom minors romped to a fifth consecutive Munster crown last July, with a significant volume of players from these teams drawn from the two Kerry schools, Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne and St Brendan’s, Killarney, who have shared the last six Corn Uí Mhuirí titles.

Cork was not represented in either the Munster or Corn Uí Mhuirí finals in 2017. The stats do not make for pleasant reading. Just one Munster title (2010) in the past 10 years and one Corn Uí Mhuirí triumph (Coláiste Chríost Rí, 2011) in the past 11 years.

Final appearances haven’t been an issue for Cork minors, but since 2007 there have been five all-Kerry Corn Uí Mhuirí deciders. 2016 was another year where Cork schools failed to make it to the concluding afternoon, Clonmel progressing to the showpiece event at the expense of St Francis College, Rochestown.

You have to go back to 1998 for the last time two Cork nurseries contested the final.

At four different venues across Cork, Kerry, and Limerick today, eight teams go in search of a place in the semi-finals of Munster’s premier post-primary football competition. Four of the teams have a Kerry address, three from Cork.

In 2012, ‘13, ‘14, and ‘15, semi-final berths were evenly shared between Cork and Kerry schools. That has become more lopsided in recent campaigns.

Last year, for example, there were five Kerry quarter-finalists and two Cork.

Of course, there have been occasions when Cork students almost succeeded in turning the tide.

In January of 2014, Coláiste Chríost Rí were unable to hold onto a slender one-point advantage at the end of their quarter-final against then champions Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne.

The latter prevailed after extra-time, but the game had to be replayed after Dingle’s Barry O’Sullivan was incorrectly substituted, rather than sent off, when picking up yellow and black cards. The replay also required extra-time, Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne emerging the victors, 1-13 to 2-7.

Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne v St Brendan's, January 2016
Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne v St Brendan's, January 2016

They would complete the three-in-a-row the following month.

A year later, the defending champions needed a replay to get over Rochestown in the decider. Roco, similar to Críost Rí, surrendered a one-point lead very late on in the drawn game.

So, can a Cork team emerge from the pack in the coming weeks to wrestle the silverware back from the Kingdom?

Three-in-a-row chasing St Brendan’s aren’t as strong as they were in either 2016 or 2017, but Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne appear to be coming with another fine crop, the majority of whom had All-Ireland junior success under Éamonn Fitzmaurice.

De La Salle Macroom, despite making most sit up and take notice with their six-point win over Críost Rí, eliminating last year’s semi-finalists in the process, will have to scale new heights if they’re to dump out St Brendan’s today.

From the group stages, what is abundantly clear is there are no runaway contenders. The playing field is as level as it has been for some time.

Who’s going to capitalise?

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