Pictured ahead of the Bord Gáis Energy under-20 provincial hurling finals were Eoin O’Leary (Wexford), Evan Shefflin (Kilkenny), Robert Downey (Cork) and Jake Morris (Tipperary). Picture: Sportsfile
The Bord Gáis Energy Munster Under-20 Hurling Championship final is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, July 23 between Tipperary and Cork at Semple Stadium, Thurles (7.30pm). And, here’s why you should be excited about the prospect: when these age-old rivals collided at minor level two years ago they served up a sensational series of contests. Indeed, the memory of the 2017 drawn and replayed Munster minor semi-final is sure to nourish the approach of the Premier County who came out on the wrong side of the argument on that occasion.
In 2017 Semple Stadium hosted the first minor clash between the sides - the hurling was superb and the drama excruciating as supporters chewed their finger nails all the way to Kinsale; after a thrilling game Tipperary led by three points in the dying seconds of extra-time, but Evan Sheehan’s last gasp goal rescued the Rebels and forced a replay (2-18 to 1-21).
The second game at Páirc Uí Rinn attracted a 8,142-strong crowd and although the Rebels prevailed (2-22 to 2-19) the performance of the Tipperary lads represented a fitting tribute to the blue and gold jersey. The context associated with that minor semi-final needs to be considered before the magnificence of that Tipperary performance could be assessed accurately - that Rebel team had been groomed to lead the hurling renaissance on Leeside. At under-14, under-15, under-16 and under-17 level Cork had illustrated their pedigree with a series of extraordinary displays, but the Tipp lads matched the Rebels stride for stride. And, the manner in which the Cork lads wildly celebrated their 2017 victory represented a fitting compliment to a Tipp team who gave that minor semi-final everything they had.
Key men: Tipperary under-20 hurling manager Liam Cahill and coach Michael Bevans.
It appears as if Cork enjoy a distinct advantage over Tipperary in this season’s Bord Gáis Energy Munster Under-20 Hurling Championship: while the Rebels were engaged in competitive outings against Limerick (1-20 to 0-16) and Clare (0-24 to 0-15) en route to the provincial final the Premier County beat a very poor Waterford team by twenty-two points (3-23 to 0-10). Tipperary manager Liam Cahill has admitted that the semi-final contest with the Déise did not represent an ideal means to prepare for the challenge posed by Cork. Indeed, the nature of that contest against Waterford threatens to give a false impression of what level this Tipperary team is actually at.
“Yeah, it's a great question and you are dead right,” Liam Cahill told the Tipperary Star.
“It is a worry for us, but the only thing I would say from my perspective is I know that it's in them. There is a lot more in these fellows than what was shown here tonight. I think that in two weeks' time against Cork we will bring that out.
“We were beaten in 2017 - we drew in Thurles and we were beaten in Cork by this particular Cork outfit. We were three points up in extra-time in Thurles and then we had to go to Cork. These players wanted to get back into that championship final again and try to rectify that from two years ago. So, we are looking forward to that,” Liam Cahill added.
Of the under-20 hurling panel named by manager Liam Cahill earlier this month fully eighteen players also saw competitive action against Cork two years ago at minor level: Craig Morgan (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Andrew Ormond (JK Bracken’s), Billy Seymour (Kiladangan), Bryan O’Mara (Holycross-Ballycahill), Cathal Bourke (Clonoulty-Rossmore), Conor Bowe (Moyne-Templetuohy), Conor McCarthy (Nenagh Éire Óg), Darragh Woods (Holycross-Ballycahill), Eoghan Connolly (Cashel King Cormacs), Eoin Collins (Drom & Inch), Jake Morris (Nenagh Éire Óg), Jerome Cahill (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Kieran Breen (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams), Kevin McCarthy (Toomevara), Michael Purcell (Thurles Sarsfields), Paddy Cadell (JK Bracken’s), Ray McCormack (Borris-Ileigh) and Robbie Quirke (Toomevara).
The following current Tipperary under-20 panellists did not see competitive action against Cork two seasons ago at minor level: Aaron Browne (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams), Ciarán Connolly (Loughmore-Castleiney), Conor Whelan (Carrick Davins), Devon Ryan (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams), Gearóid O’Connor (Moyne-Templetuohy), James Devaney (Borris-Ileigh), Joe Fogarty (Moneygall), John Ryan (Boherlahan-Dualla), Johnny Ryan (Arravale Rovers), Kian O’Kelly (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Kevin Maher (Borris-Ileigh), Max Hackett (Moycarkey-Borris), Niall Heffernan (Golden-Kilfeacle), Ronan Tucker (Burgess), Seán Hayes (Kiladangan), Seán Ryan (Templederry Kenyons) and Stephen O’Brien (Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill).
Meanwhile twenty players have seen competitive action for Cork during the Rebels’ contests against Limerick and Clare thus far and fifteen of those lads also played a part in the 2017 minor clashes against Tipp, namely: Ger Collins, Conor O’Callaghan, James Keating, Eoin Roche, Ger Millerick, Seán O’Leary-Hayes, Robert Downey, Brian Roche, Craig Hanifin, Dáire Connery, Brian Turnbull, Evan Sheehan, Liam O’Shea, Declan Hanlon and Barry Murphy. Meanwhile Tommy O’Connell, Seán Twomey, Shane O’Regan, Ryan Walsh and Simon Kennefick represent new additions.
It is interesting to note that in 2017 Denis Ring was the Cork minor hurling manager and he is also the Rebels’ current under-20 boss.
The Tipperary under-20 panel of players.
On July 9 Tipperary cruised to a 22-point semi-final win over Waterford at Semple Stadium, Thurles (3-23 to 0-10). Tipp led 0-11 to 0-5 at the break. Waterford only managed one score from play in the first half and if they were wondering whether matters could get any worse for them they got their answer during the opening seven minutes of the second half when Conor Bowe banged home two goals for the Premier County in front of 3,631 paying spectators. It was time now for the Déise lads to buy a crash helmet as this miss-match sauntered toward an inevitable conclusion.
To read our report on this contest please click here.
“I know that Waterford only had their management (team) assembled late on in the year and that they did not have a whole lot of work done,” Liam Cahill explained to the Tipperary Star.
“At this level now and at every grade of inter-county in hurling or football you have to be absolutely spot on - it's a savage environment to go into if you are not fully ready.
“The objective was to get a win tonight and that was achieved, but, really, our first thirty-three or four minutes left a lot to be desired. It was jittery, nervy and there were a lot of basic errors and mistakes; it was a different team to what we were watching in training three nights a week. So, there is a good bit for us to work on,” the Ballingarry man said.
“Looking in at it we seemed to be really flat-footed, but I suppose the favourite's tag is a tag as well that is hard to wear no matter who you are. We came in as raging hot favourites and it is human nature that you are expecting to be five, six and seven points up after ten minutes, but it was only two points apiece. So, that probably had a bit of an effect as well, but it is a good experience for these fellows and it will teach them and educate them about how to deal with that kind of pressure and atmosphere.”
Tipperary represented a much more dynamic force in the second half and out-scored their opponents 2-13 to 0-5 - a display which certainly caught the eye of Liam Cahill: “We made a commitment at half-time to start the second half well and I think that when we did that it took the air out of Waterford. And, it allowed us to get on the ball a bit easier than we were getting on it in the first half. But there are bigger fish to fry here; there are bigger obstacles and bigger tasks ahead with what is coming down the tracks and we know that”.
The Tipperary under-20 management team pictured back row from left: TJ Ryan (selector), Tommy Ryan (strength & conditioning coach), Liam Cahill (manager), Seán Corbett (selector), Kevin O'Sullivan (goalkeeping coach) and Michael Bevans (coach-selector). Front row from left: Paddy Julian (physio) and John Durnan (kitman).
Liam Cahill is joined on the Tipperary management team by selectors TJ Ryan, Seán Corbett and Michael Bevans (coach) while Tommy Ryan (strength & conditioning coach), Kevin O'Sullivan (goalkeeping coach), Paddy Julian (physio) and John Durnan (kitman) represent key members of the back room team.
And, the Tipperary management team have been delighted this season to discover a handful of new recruits who have made an impact on the starting team.
“From a management point of view we were absolutely thrilled to have come across the likes of Gearóid O'Connor who would not have been on our radar at minor level or at under-21 level last year; he has really developed,” Liam Cahill explained.
“Joe Fogarty is another guy that has come along; he is a rangy and an athletic type of guy. Ciarán Connolly is a real find from Loughmore - he was playing senior hurling for his club last year in the middle of the field. And, that’s what it is about - those fellows did not look out of place tonight (versus Waterford) and they will improve from that. And, there is a couple more there - Billy Seymour has been with me for quite a while. He broke onto a minor team two years ago and nailed down his place on the udner-20 team two years later which is testament to that young fellow. That's the whole objective - winning is brilliant and it is a results-driven game, but at the end of the day we can’t take our eye off making sure that we are developing players that might have a chance of playing at senior level given time.”
And, then there’s Moyne-Templetuohy’s Conor Bowe who banged in two goals against Waterford.
“Conor is another talent as well,” Liam Cahill added.
“He was unfortunate not to have been part of our under-21 squad last year since he was exam-committed - he would definitely have been with us had he been able to commit. He is a fabulous talent as well; he is a great guy to get around the field.
“These players have set a big standard for themselves in training and in preparation games. They are guys who want to do well; they really want to show you each night how good they are. And, that is a great sign of a player.”
Irrespective of what happens in the up-coming provincial final Tipperary are through to the All-Ireland semi-finals on August 3 (Kilkenny face Wexford in the Leinster final on July 17) while the All-Ireland final is scheduled to take place on August 24.
Under-20 hurling captain Craig Morgan pictured before the off against Waterford.
To keep up to date with all the sporting news in Tipperary please click here - to follow the Tipperary Star sports team on twitter please click here - to follow sports editor Brian McDonnell on Twitter please click here. Alternatively, you can also like the Tipperary Star on Facebook.