Cork minor manager Denis Ring believes too much can be read into the county’s clean sweep of underage hurling titles last summer.
On the final weekend of August, Cork swept to glory in all seven underage hurling tournaments, including the All-Ireland U16, U16B, and the Eugene Carey U17 event.
From tonight’s starting team to face Waterford in the Munster MHC quarter-final (Walsh Park, throw-in 6.30pm), three players — Ger Collins, Evan Sheehan and Sean O’Leary Hayes — have been pulled from the successful 2015 U16 team, while six were members of the U17 panel — Eoghan Clifford, Cian O’Mahony, Stephen Condon, John O’Sullivan, John Cooper, and Josh Beausang.
Ring says underage success is a hugely important stepping stone in the development of young hurlers, but warned of the significant gap that exists between development squad level and the Munster minor championship.
“The lads who have come in from the development squads have a brilliant attitude, but again, this is a big step up from development squads,” he asserted.
“Transferring their ability to this level, which is a very intense level, is the next step. We have a lot of work done and we would like to think we are well prepared to take that step.
“Waterford weren’t involved in that U17 competition last year so that does then come with a health warning.”
Cork have not tasted Munster success at minor level since 2008, while not since 2006 has a Cork minor hurling team overcome Waterford. Throw in the fact they have to travel to Walsh Park and Ring is wary of the challenge facing his squad.
“Obviously, Waterford are on the crest of a wave at the moment having beaten Cork in the U21 last year and their victories in the league and championship at senior level.
“You are playing them in their own backyard as well and in the Munster minor championship, only one match has gone against the home team in the last two years.
“Waterford are going well, they scored 3-21 against Kilkenny in a challenge on Bank Holiday Monday.
“They beat them 3-21 to 2-18 so that was a good win for them. They looked impressive in their matches against Limerick and Dublin, also. They play orthodox, but they do break to the system currently being employed by the Waterford seniors where they get a lot of bodies behind the ball which makes it difficult for opposing forwards to score.”
For Cork’s part, corner-forward Liam Healy is the sole survivor from the starting team which fell to Limerick in last July’s Munster semi-final.
“We have played Wexford, Laois, the UCC freshers three times and the CIT freshers twice. We have played some adult teams as well. We would be happy enough with how our preparations have gone. The attitude is good. We have a young team. A lot of them are U17. It was almost like starting from scratch such was the turnover. It is a good, skillful hurling team. We will be under pressure, though.
“We have five lads out injured who would have been contending for starting berths — James Keating, Diarmaid Lenihan, David Jones, Rob Downey, and Tadgh Deasy.
“James Keating got injured playing with Mitchelstown CBS in their schools football run. Rob Downey fractured his thumb playing football with St Nick’s last week.
“The two most recent ones were a setback as we had been planning without the other guys for the last number of weeks.
“That is what a panel is for. This gives other fellas a chance.”
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