THEIR provincial final scare was as real as it gets. Three weeks ago the Cork Under-21s performed a great escape act, squeezing out Tipperary by a point thanks to a last-gasp goal from the unlikeliest of sources, corner-back Noel Galvin.
As they return this afternoon to the site of their Munster high drama to face Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final, Cork selector Brian Herlihy believes the late heroics against Tipperary will stand them in good stead.
“It was a battling display to beat Tipperary. We didn’t underestimate them at all and they were a good side. I just felt it was a very tight game and we didn’t play with the looseness that we had in previous rounds.
“But even though the game looked to be slipping away from us, we never lost hope. It was funny, John (Cleary) was saying to them that matches in Semple Stadium are never decided until the very end. We saw that two years ago when we beat Laois in the All-Ireland final and then John was part of the Castlehaven side who lost to Erin’s Isle late on in Thurles back in the 90s. So we hung in there and got our reward.”
Since then, Cork have been through a three-week hiatus from action, which has been crammed with club games for their players. They’ve suffered a few injuries, but in Herlihy’s mind it’s a familiar situation for them to deal with.
“This particular selection group have been around for six years now. It’s always the case that these club matches are played and you have to let the clubs get their day. We’re used to coping with the situation at this stage and we’ve a big panel to cope. We’re looking forward to Dublin now, it’s a glamour game and they’re a very impressive side. They play with huge intensity and physique so it’ll be difficult.”
For Dublin boss Jim Gavin there was immense satisfaction to be taken from his side’s Leinster success over Laois. Attaining provincial glory was one thing but the manner of their win fuelled the notion of his team as a hardened outfit.
“It was a great win for our lads against a Laois side that really put it up to us. I was really happy with the way we responded during some difficult stages in the game. It was a case of a collective effort again getting us through and I feel that’s been the case in our matches against Meath and Westmeath as well. Obviously having the Kilmacud lads back gives us big options in our team.
“I didn’t get to see Cork play in Munster but we played them earlier on in the year in a challenge match in Westmanstown. Both sides had fairly scratch teams out that day so it’s hard to read too much into it. But any team that puts up such a big score against Kerry deserves huge respect. They’ve great forwards in Colm O’Neill and David Goold, and we’ll have to watch them.”
Dublin have been a more impressive outfit of late, with their Kilmacud group in tow, and their defensive spine of Rory O’Carroll and Cian O’Sullivan is top-rate.
If Cork can keep it wide, their right attacking flank of Ciaran Sheehan and Colm O’Neill could be a profitable avenue. Cork will need to keep a close eye on Dublin full-forward Paddy Andrews, while those that were involved with UCC Freshers against DCU in the All-Ireland final recently will have seen at first hand what Dean Rock is capable of.
But the fright Cork received against Tipperary is bound to have refocused their minds in the interim and the three-week break will have helped replenish their energy levels as well. Cork have yet to replicate their dazzling form against Kerry, but they set such high standards in that game that it was always going to be difficult to maintain them.
Having to play with 14 men and cope with a swirling wind posed problems for them in the Munster final and a Tipperary side parading several of their senior stars were always going to pose a genuine challenge.
Dublin have been through a series of hard games but if Cork can get their attacking stars into the right positions, then they can progress.
CORK (U-21F v Dublin): A. Seymour; S. McLoughlin, R. Buckley, N. Galvin; Conor O’Driscoll, A. Walsh, B. Daly; C. O’Donovan, K. O’Driscoll; C. Sheehan, S. McCarthy, C. O’Driscoll; C. O’Neill, D. Goold, P. Honohan.
DUBLIN: D McDonnell; C Moore, R O’Carroll, H Gill; J Cooper, C O’Sullivan, N Brogan; C Murphy, K Nolan; P O’Connor, L Sweetman, D Kelly; B O’Rourke, P Andrews, D Rock.
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