Over 8,000 in to see a minor match of a Monday evening, that’s pretty remarkable. Well, that’s Cork hurling for you. Or rather, that’s Cork hurling on the rise.
To throw some context on the 8,142 who paid in to watch the Munster MHC semi-final replay between Cork and Tipperary, that attendance out-scored the crowd of 6,292 who converged on O’Moore Park for the Leinster SHC semi-final meeting of Galway and Offaly. And that game was on a Sunday afternoon.
Another weekend fixture dwarfed by this minor game was the Munster SFC semi-final between Cork and Tipperary which attracted just 4,570 spectators.
Indeed, of the five games in this year’s Munster SFC, only the final drew a larger attendance.
Further context, as to why Boreenmanna Road was black with traffic an hour before throw-in last Monday.
Cork, leaving aside your Tony Forristal, Tipperary Supporters Club All-Ireland U16 tournament and almost every other competition catering for development panels, have been starved of success at the recognised age-groups of minor and U21. Tomorrow’s appearance in the curtain-raiser is the county’s first since 2008.
Next Thursday, the Cork U21s travel to Walsh Park for a Munster semi-final against the reigning All-Ireland champions.
There hasn’t been a Munster U21 title brought Leeside in 10 years. And yet, there is strong expectation that John Meyler’s group, 12 of whom are part of the senior panel, will play their role in Cork’s latest coming.
“There’s a feelgood factor sweeping through Cork hurling at the moment,” says minor manager Denis Ring.
“There is a hunger in Cork for success. There is an appetite for it. Cork people love their hurling. That was reflected in the numbers that went to Thurles last week (4,254) and the numbers that went to Páirc Uí Rinn on Monday.
“The following on Monday was fanatical. I’m sure there was probably 10,500 there in total because juveniles were free. For a minor match, that’s remarkable. It’s reflective of how people feel about hurling in Cork and what it means to people in Cork. We’re only delighted that we gave them something to cheer about. And we’d be delighted if the Cork supporters get into the stadium early on Sunday to support the minors.”
Not since 2006 have two Cork teams been present on Munster final afternoon. Senior boss Kieran Kingston has been in and spoken to Ring’s charges. Meyler and U17 boss John Considine have also contributed. No-one is keeping to themselves. This isn’t about one team bridging a gap relevant to their grade. This is about Cork.
“Everybody is putting their shoulder to the wheel. There is great cooperation at all levels. A lot of people have a very positive outlook and an awful lot of people are looking forward in terms of putting Cork back where Cork belongs.
“It is very important to have success at underage. We’re still looking for success. We have won nothing yet.”
A concern for Ring’s side has to be the quick turnaround.
Tomorrow will be their second game in less than a week, their third in 11 days. Tuesday was spent in the high-performance unit in the Mardyke where Stephen Carey made sure each player limbered out after the previous night’s exploits. Physio John O’Meara and his assistants, Caroline Coughlan and Finola Neville, along with Dr Paddy Burke, tended to the various knocks and bruises. Video analysis and stats, as put together by Daire Ring, John Ring, Mikey Mortell, Ian Mortell and Sean O’Donnell, were run through, with the players afforded Wednesday and Thursday off.
“To do anything remotely heavy this week would have been counter-productive,” Ring adds. “The players, mentally, need to get away from it so that’s why we gave them downtime. From a hurling viewpoint, Johnny O’Dwyer has them in a very good place. Brian Hurley, Liam Martin, John Mortell and Fergus Ryan have worked very hard with the players. Jerry Walsh and Derek Connolly, too, have played their part in match-day preparations.
“We hope everything we have been doing since Monday night will have them ready. It is a challenge going from Monday to Sunday, but if we had that choice last week or, indeed, last year, we’d have bitten your hand off for it. We’re waiting long enough to be involved on Sunday.”
G Collins (Ballinhassig); C O’Callaghan (Dromtarriffe), S O’Leary Hayes (Midleton), E Roche (Bride Rovers); A Walsh Barry (Carrigtwohill), J Keating (Kildorrery), G Millerick (Fr O’Neill’s); D Connery (Na Piarsaigh), D Linehan (Ballyhooly); C Hanafin (Na Piarsaigh), L O’Shea (Lisgoold), B Roche (Bride Rovers); E Sheehan (Na Piarsaigh), R Downey (Glen Rovers), B Turnbull (Douglas).
E Foudy (Inagh-Kilnamona); C McInerney (Inagh-Kilnamona), R Hayes (Crusheen), B Higgins (Kilmaley); A McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona), C Minogue (Bodyke), D Ryan (Cratloe); K White (Inagh-Kilnamona), L Brack (Clarecastle); R Considine (Cratloe), T Agnew (Sixmilebridge), E Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona); C Tierney (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield), G Cooney (O’Callaghan Mills), B Horner (Crusheen).
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