Chance to turn tables on Premier after Munster final disappointment
All Ireland Under 20 HC Final: Cork v Tipperary, Saturday August 24, The Gaelic Grounds, 6pm
It was supposed to be a coronation, a franking of Cork's return as a serious hurling force.
While the county's senior team had fallen short in extra time against Limerick in their All-Ireland semi-final, there was a chance for the Under 21 side - featuring a number of the senior starlets - to round off a fine summer with the last title in the grade, what would have been Cork's first since 1998.
Having beaten Tipperary by 2-23 to 1-13 in the Munster final, they had dismantled Wexford in the All-Ireland semi and another meeting with Tipp in Limerick was set to be a mere formality. Instead, few of the big guns hit top form on a frustrating evening.
Tipp roared into a 1-5 to 0-1 lead but, even so, Cork weathered that and, as the end neared a flurry of points looked to have finally secured a win, however unconvincing. Instead, those scores just set up a late Tipp revival as a goal from Conor Stakelum put them ahead and David Gleeson added the insurance point for a 3-13 to 1-16 victory.
It was a gut-punch for Cork and a tough lesson to take, so when this year's Munster final against Tipp was lost in similar fashion, Jake Morris striking for a late goal, it was doubly disappointing.
A semi-final win over Kilkenny has given Cork another chance to take on Tipp, Limerick again the venue this Saturday evening
The dead-ball accuracy of Tommy O'Connell is a key asset for Cork, while goalkeeper Ger Collins has experience of being around the senior panel, as has Ger Millerick, while Robert Downey started in the championship for John Meyler's side this summer.
Shane O'Regan and Brian Turnbull are explosive in very dangerous attacking sextet while Seán O'Leary-Hayes, captain of the minor side which reached the All-Ireland final two years ago, anchors the defence.
A big test awaits the Rebels.