Wednesday 23 January 2019

Cork Under-21s have what it takes to claim crown

All-Ireland U-21 Hurling championship Final: Cork v Wexford, Saturday, August 4, Nowlan Park, Kilkenny 4pm

Diarmuid Sheehan

Cork will send another hurling side into championship hurling this weekend and all on Leeside will hope that the result is a little different from the one in Croker last Sunday.

Cork's Under 21s have been in stunning form this year and after claiming the Munster title a few weeks back (crushing Tipperary by 2-23 to 1-13) the young rebels will head to Nowlan Park this Saturday afternoon looking to go one better than their illustrious senior side and grab a place in the All-Ireland Final.

Wexford stand in the way of what would go some way to healing the hurt in the rebel county and the Leinster side have plenty in their favour to be fearful of. Players to watch out for who regularly impressed for the Model County Aaron Maddox, Stephen O'Gorman and Seamus Casey with Casey a real threat up front.

Mike Dwyer is another that can case serious issues with a genuine eye for goal that knocked out the dubs in the Leinster semi final. Damien Reck, senior star, will also be an outlet for Wexford who come into this one on the back of a late loss to Galway in their provincial final.

It's far from all positive for Wexford however as their midfield star Rory O'Connor will miss the game Saturday with a knee injury. The hugely talented player was injured during club training, and following a scan has been deemed not available.

O'Connor was instrumental to Wexford's impressive win over the highly fancied Dublin side and, while Wexford were just pipped at the death by Galway, they are still one of the favourites to take this crown.

Wexford may well have some senior stars in their line-up, but Cork are hardly short in that department either with Jack O'Connor, Robbie O'Flynn, Shane Kingston, Mark Coleman and Tim O'Mahony all likely to make a serious impact into what Cork will do this Saturday.

All five played a part against Tipperary in the provincial final with a tally of 2-11 between them however the hope will need to be that all of the seniors have gotten over the ill effects of last weekend's bitter disappointment.

Cork will also look to their main talisman Declan Dalton from Fr O'Neills who will likely be the main free taker and the one responsible for plenty of the scores from play. Dalton has proved to be a major asset this year along with in particular Fitzgibbon who has excelled at both Under 21 and senior.

Blarney's Coleman is another that will likely do really well here with his strengths as an attacking wing back. Coleman has been splitting the posts with an ever-increasing regularity, particularly from side-line cuts, and will surely add to his brand this time round.

Robbie O'Flynn has come back well from his concussion earlier in the senior championship and will again be hard to handle from a Wexford point of view. Sarsfields' O'Connor bagged 1-2 in the provincial showdown and manager Denis Ring will hope he can do the same this time round.

Shane Kingston has shown many this year that he is far from a one season wonder as his star continues to rise on the national stage.

Keeper Ger Collins may not have seen senior action in this year's senior championship, but he will be called upon this weekend to keep Wexford at bay. Collins also has a serious puck out and an eye for a player in tight spaces.

This is not a game about redemption, or anything of the sort for Cork as this bunch of players have already shown that they are a hugely talented and high scoring bunch.

2018 has been a very successful one for Cork hurling and while the big boys didn't quite make it to their holy-grail there is plenty optimism around that this particular rebel team have the credentials to go all the way - first up however is the small matter of Wexford.

Verdict: Cork