Cork boss Denis Ring and Tipperary manager Liam Cahill. David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE
Rising Stars

Tipperary aim to keep their hurling party going, Cork seek All-Ireland breakthrough

The counties meet this evening in the Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U20 hurling decider.

THE TEMPTATION HERE is to draw parallels with 2010.

Tipperary crowned senior kings on a Sunday in Croke Park, dismantling a Kilkenny team in a hugely impressive fashion. The Liam MacCarthy Cup brought to Thurles on a Monday night to kick-start a week of homecoming celebrations.

And then the giddy mood engulfing Tipperary hurling is embellished on a Saturday evening when an underage side takes to the field for their own All-Ireland final.

The decade began with Tipperary achieving an All-Ireland double in the space of six days, they seek to replicate that feat this evening in the Gaelic Grounds. There was a crossover of five players from those senior and U21 victories in 2010. What Padraic Maher, Michael Cahill, Brendan Maher, Noel McGrath and Patrick Maher have subsequently achieved reinforces just how special that underage side was. 

The sharing of players is not as widespread now for the U20 counterparts of 2019. The class of 2010 were established starters in the senior hurling ranks, the second-half cameos from Jake Morris is the major link now. Jerome Cahill was on the bench last Sunday. Paddy Cadell was part of the extended panel. That’s a trio of lynchpins to base Tipperary U20 hopes around.

The striking aspect in 2010 was how the festival atmosphere in the county spilled over to the following Saturday evening. That was aided by the setting, Galway had a legitimate grievance over the selection of Semple Stadium but the choice of venue stood. Backed by a noisy home crowd, Tipperary caught fire early on. Galway never stood a chance in the face of such an onslaught and were cut adrift by 25 points at full-time.

tipperary-players-celebrate Tipperary players celebrating their 2010 All-Ireland U21 title victory. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

A neutral location has staged the final ever since. Tipperary journey to the Gaelic Grounds tonight, just like they did for last year’s decider. The stadium is still in a good accessible place, particularly for fans from the north of the county, and last Sunday’s win should swell the Tipperary following all the more. Tipperary are chasing a third All-Ireland underage title in four seasons under the stewardship of Cahill.

“The place is fairly wild there at the moment,” admits the Premier manager.

“Great homecoming, big crowds out and great enthusiasm around the county. It’s brilliant. This is just a point in time for these players and for us trying to put a bit of silverware on the table in their journey to being adult senior players in time.”

If Tipperary have the momentum and the winning habit, then those are commodities that opponents Cork are desperately in search of. The bald statistics explain the scale of the county’s current droughts with an All-Ireland title lacking at senior in 14 years, U21/U20 in 21 years and minor in 18 years.

It’s been a barren phase but the last few years have seen decent attempts to deliver silver. A large chunk of this team played in the All-Ireland minor loss two years ago with Ger Collins, Ger Millerick and Brian Turnbull all playing at some stage in the U21 final defeat last August.

brian-turnbull-and-craig-morgan Brian Turnbull in action for Cork against Tipperary in the Munster U20 decider. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“There was a period of five years in a row where Cork minor hurlers, not alone did they not win, but the team that beat them didn’t win Munster championship each year,” points out Cork manager Denis Ring.

“So that would have been how far down the pecking order we were. We’ve 15 games over the last few years and we’ve lost 3, won 12 of them and we haven’t lost any by more than a goal. So you’d like to think the players that are coming through that are getting close to what is the required standard, learning a lot from what’s involved.

“You’re just creating a conveyor of belt of talent. You just try to ensure there’s enough players coming through that there’s a squad to pick from at senior level. That’s our job ultimately. Along the way you want to pick up silverware. We’re disappointed not to have won the All-Ireland. For that reason we’ve leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of this.”

A pattern of narrow underage reversals has been established. 2017 by two points against Galway. 2018 by three points against Tipperary. Last month when these sides faced off, Tipperary caught Cork on the line when Morris smashed home a late goal to seal victory by the minimum.

There is an acute awareness of the need for Cork to claim a national accolade, a win tonight would be a welcome tonic after their flagship senior side slipped back this summer.

jake-morris Jake Morris hit the match-winning goal in last month's Munster U20 final. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Cork have revamped their side as a third of the starting team saw no action in the corresponding minor decider in 2017. Midfielder Ryan Walsh was a minor footballer two years ago, Tommy O’Connell and Sean Twomey were tasting All-Ireland U17 success that season. Shane O’Regan was an unused substitute on that U17 squad. Padraig Power emerged as an ace free-taker on the Christians team that contested the Dr Harty Cup final last spring.

The two managers have a high level of familiarity with each other. Since 2016 across three underage grades, encompassing both the Munster and All-Ireland series, teams met by Cahill and Ring have met six times. The record reads three Tipperary wins, two Cork wins and a draw in that time frame.

“It has been a great couple of years for Tipp and Cork, we have banged heads together quite a lot,” says Cahill.

“I don’t think they have ever failed to bring the best out of one another. They have been great advertisements for hurling.

“I think Saturday will be no different. We will see another epic battle between two really good sides.”

The decade closes with Tipperary aiming to keep their hurling party going and Cork seeking an All-Ireland breakthrough. 

Murray joins Bernard and Gavan with all the latest from training camp in Portugal, including a concerning update on Joey Carbery’s fitness. Plus, BBC Scotland’s Tom English explains why the Scots have a negative perception of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland team.

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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