Thursday 17 August 2017

Ellis feels 'responsibility' to give platform to young guns

Millstreet ace backs U-21s to continue Rebel surge

Cork’s Mark Ellis at the Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford yesterday for the official launch of the All-Ireland senior hurling championship. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cork’s Mark Ellis at the Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford yesterday for the official launch of the All-Ireland senior hurling championship. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

It's a myth that Cork hurling can just spring players from nowhere overnight and does not take into account the strong work being done at underage level over the last number of years that culminated in last weekend's Munster minor/senior double in Semple Stadium.

That's the view of centre-back Mark Ellis who admitted it's no secret about the quality of hurler that is coming on stream in the county.

After so much criticism heaped upon them for the dearth of underage success in such a big county, Ellis sees real movement, pointing to the size of the crowd at a minor semi-final replay against Tipperary last week when more than 8,000 turned up to Páirc Uí Rinn on a Monday evening.

"There was 8,000 advertised but I was there myself and I can tell you there was a lot more than 8,000. It was probably closer to 12,000 or 13,000," said the Millstreet man. "They're a great team and it was great to see them win the last day so Cork hurling is certainly on the up but that work hasn't just been done in 12 months.

"The work has been done at underage for the last few years. You can see the players coming in Cork," he said.

Unbelievable

"Mark Coleman has had three unbelievable games and he's only 19. They're coming up earlier. The players are there and as an older player this year I certainly knew there were players coming that were good enough to play at the top level."

Ellis said the senior players felt "a sense of responsibility to provide them with the platform to show how good they are."

"The U-21s are playing on Thursday (a Munster semi-final against Waterford) and at the start of the year I think we would have tipped them to be the best team in Cork. So they too can push it on and drive it on from here."

Among the players to feature in that game will be Coleman, Luke Meade, Shane Kingston and Darragh Fitzgibbon.

"This idea that the players spring from nowhere, that's not the case. Hurling is a game that you need to be playing all of the time. You just don't pick up a hurley and be able to use it. It's a skill, it's basically a lifestyle. Those things, they're kind of a myth.

"Maybe it was something people clung to when we weren't having success, that these things would just happen."

Cork haven't won an All-Ireland minor since 2001 and weren't Munster champions since 2008 but that distorted the picture of some very good teams unfortunate to lose out.

"I think last year's team were very unlucky, to be honest. Shane Kingston actually got injured before the Munster semi-final. They still could have won the All-Ireland without him but if he was playing they would have won it," he said.

"The players who were on those teams are top players. Whether the team is successful or not is irrelevant because the boys have confidence in their abilities and they're well able to step up.

"Every county has good underage players, has good talent but I think what separates the talent from the players who really excel is their temperament. They've got great mentality, great composure and can really express themselves and show their ability every day they go out. They're not affected by nerves. The coolest in the dressing room are the young lads."

The Millstreet man is the first to make a Cork senior hurling team from a town that provided four of the team that won the All-Ireland football title in 1973 and has now added a second provincial medal.

While the players will be cognisant of what happened in 2014 when they won three games, similar to this campaign, to win their previous Munster title but then fell flat against Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final, the sense of elation after Sunday's win stems, he feels, from the low level of expectation that there was for them at the beginning of the season.

Shocked

"After the Tipperary game, people were shocked, then there was slightly more expectation after the Waterford game. Then for the Munster final, it was 50-50. Just to win, people were ecstatic. Cork people just love Cork hurling and they're great to get behind and support.

"We won the Munster Championship in exactly the same way in 2014 as we did this year."

Ellis said he was unaware of the brewing storm over the disappearance of Cork sliotars before the game with a video emerging of an individual with a Clare top on him making his way around to Anthony Nash's goals and lifting them.

 

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