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Senior influence, history repeating and more All-Ireland U21 football final talking points

There’s plenty to discuss ahead of Saturday’s EirGrid All-Ireland U21 football decider between Cork and Mayo.

1. Whose famine will end?

Colm O'Driscoll scores a goal Colm O'Driscoll's late goal sealed victory over Down in 2009. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Two counties boasting rich footballing traditions will battle it out for EirGrid All-Ireland U21 glory tomorrow, both looking to end what can be considered famines for them in this grade.

Cork last tasted glory in 2009 and were beaten finalists three years ago against Galway.

For Mayo, their goal is to end a ten-year wait for silverware in this grade.

Before that 2006 win, they were champions previously in 1983, 1974 and 1967 but the Westerners lost national deciders in 1973, 1984, 1994, 1995, 2001 and 2004.

Cork have won this competition more times than any other county and a 12th victory would take them two clear of Munster rivals Kerry on the all-time roll of honour.

2. Senior stars will have a say

The attacking prowess of the Cork’s Peter Kelleher and Mayo powerhouse Diarmuid O’Connor will go a long way towards deciding the destination of the coveted silverware.

Both men played key roles in their respective semi-final victories as O’Connor turned in a man of the match display against Dublin while Kelleher, while not quite as effective as he can be, chipped in with a crucial goal against Monaghan.

They’ve been good at senior level this year too, O’Connor one of the brightest sparks for Mayo during the course of an underwhelming Allianz League campaign as Kelleher emerged as a full-forward of potency for Cork.

Now they’ll look to secure their first All-Ireland U21 medals while also providing a real confidence boost to the winning county ahead of the summer’s senior campaign.

3. The Solan influence

Source: Andrew Paton/INPHO

Michael Solan is a confident, competent and tactically astute young manager.

The Mayo boss is a brother of Barry, who’s the head of strength and conditioning for the county’s senior and U21 teams.

A former Mayo minor, Michael managed his home club Ballaghaderreen at senior level in 2013.

He also won county SFC medals as a player with Ballaghaderreen in 2008 and 2012 before injury cut short his playing career.

Back in 2000, Solan played on the St Nathy’s College team that won an All-Ireland senior B colleges title, an outfit managed by former Mayo, Leitrim and Galway boss John O’Mahony.

4. Last hurrah for Cork star O’Donoghue?

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It will come as a source of concern for Cork football fans that this might be the last time they see Seán O’Donoghue lining out in the big ball code.

The coveted Inniscarra man first sprang to national prominence in 2014, when he captained Coláiste Choilm to All-Ireland Post Primary Schools glory at Croke Park.

He went on to represent the Cork minor hurlers and footballers later that year before graduating to the U21 ranks.

A hard-running half-forward with a keen eye for a score, O’Donoghue picked off four points in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Monaghan.

But he’s been called up to the Cork senior hurling panel by manager Kieran Kingston for the summer and may have to sacrifice football to pursue his hurling dream.

5. Can Hayes become an All-Ireland winning manager after success as a player?

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Seasoned Cork fans will recall that the county’s U21 football team manager Sean Hayes was a useful player in his day.

Hayes won All-Ireland U21 medals in 1980 and 1981, captaining the team in the latter year to national glory.

35 years have passed since Hayes lifted the U21 trophy but now he could oversee the county’s 12th title win as manager.

Hayes would dearly love to get Cork over the line as he’s suffered some heartbreaking defeats in recent years.

He was manager in 2014 when Cork lost to Roscommon in the All-Ireland semi-final before Tipperary pipped the Rebels in last year’s Munster decider.

But all of those memories will be consigned to the history books if Stephen Cronin is the man accepting the cup at Cusack Park in Ennis.

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‘We’re not focusing on any other team. We’re trying to write our own history’

Cork name team for U21 All-Ireland football final against Mayo

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