Hope that Fitzgibbon will recover for All-Ireland U21 semi-final after being forced off for Cork seniors yesterday

The Cork U21 side are in action next Saturday against Wexford.

Darragh Fitzgibbon in action for the Cork hurlers yesterday.
Darragh Fitzgibbon in action for the Cork hurlers yesterday.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CORK ARE ‘VERY hopeful’ that midfield star Darragh Fitzgibbon will be available for next Saturday’s Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 hurling semi-final after being forced off in extra-time of yesterday’s senior semi-final in Croke Park.

Fitzgibbon had to withdraw from the action in the 78th minute of the pulsating encounter and his absence was keenly felt as Cork ultimately fell to a four-point extra-time loss to Limerick.

The Charleville club man had struck 0-4 from play before being taken off, maintaining his excellent midfield form this summer that has left him as the favourite to win the 2018 Young Hurler of the Year award.

Fitzgibbon’s enforced substitution was linked to the illness he had suffered in the build-up to the Munster senior final and which subsequently resulted in him being taken off in the first half three days later in the Munster U21 decider in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“Darragh I suppose felt a bit weak in the sense that he was coming back after a bad sickness which knocked him out for seven or eight days,” Cork U21 boss Denis Ring told The42 today.

Denis Ring celebrates at the final whistle Denis Ring (centre) after Cork's Munster U21 final victory over Tipperary. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“When it was going into extra-time, it was always going to militate against him from that respect. We’d be very hopeful he’ll play.

“I was talking to him after the match now. While obviously he was very disappointed and so on but he was feeling fine. From a recovery perspective, he’s quite happy.

“We’ve a recovery session now this evening and just see how they come out of it. They’re a resilient bunch. A lot of these knocks and bruises don’t materialise until the morning afterwards or 24 hours afterwards. It was a fairly arduous contest.”

Fitzgibbon was one of three Cork players – along with Mark Coleman and Shane Kingston – who started yesterday and will be central to the U21 side’s plans for next Saturday’s encounter with Wexford in Nowlan Park. Fellow U21 hurlers Tim O’Mahony, Robbie O’Flynn and Jack O’Connor were all brought on as substitutes for Cork with goalkeeper Ger Collins and defender Bill Hennessy also part of the 26-man panel.

Robbie O’Flynn dejected at the end of the game A dejected Robbie O'Flynn after Cork's loss to Limerick yesterday. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Getting those eight players in the right mental frame of mind for the U21 challenge is now key according to Ring, as Cork chase the county’s first appearance in an All-Ireland U21 final since 1998.

“That’s our job to try and get that right,” admitted Ring.

“We would have planned for all eventualities really, for the positive result and unfortunately you have to have something prepared in your mind as well for the possibility of a negative result as well. We’re ready to run the week from that perspective.

“Obviously we’d much prefer to be running in on the back of a positive result on yesterday. It’s a different challenge now. It’s not going to be easy. These fellas like challenges.

“The other side of it as well, you have to look at the performance yesterday was powerful, it’s not as though you’re coming away from a performance that you’d be demoralised about or anything like that. A lot of positives that those lads can take from it as well. We’ll be looking at it from that perspective all week.

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“Wexford had a similar scenario, Conor Firman, Damien Reck and Rory O’Connor but then they’ve had the advantage of having a couple of weeks.”

Rory O'Connor Wexford's Rory O'Connor in action in the Leinster U21 hurling final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Cork have bolstered their extended squad since the Munster U21 final victory by adding six players – Conor O’Callaghan, Ger Millerick, Brian Roche, Sean O’Leary-Hayes, James Keating and Robert Downey – from the side that contested last September’s All-Ireland minor decider.

The 2017 minor trio of Ger Collins, Eoin Roche – a twin brother of Brian – and Daire Connery, were all involved in the provincial U21 final success. Brian Turnbull, who hit 1-7 in that minor final last season, is back in training as he recovers from a torn cruciate ligament but is not likely to be fit enough yet to contend for a squad place on Saturday.

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Fintan O'Toole

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