Minor hurlers need a strong start
Munster MHC Round 1: Cork v Tipperary, Sunday, May 12, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2pm
While success at lower grades is never a sure-fire guarantee of joy at minor level, the current Cork minor hurling team can point to a strong body of work as they prepare for the commencement of action.
Like their senior counterparts, Cork take on Tipperary in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday in the opening game of the Electric Ireland Munster MHC. The Rebels team was named on Tuesday night, with Ballinora's Shane Kingston chosen at right cornerback while Brian O'Sullivan (Kanturk) is at number 7 and his clubmate Colin Walsh is named among the substitutes by manager John Considine and his substitutes.
Three years ago, Cork were successful in both Under 14 competitions, the Tony Forristal and Sonny Walsh Cups, and they repeated the feat a year later in the Carrigdhoun Under 15 tournament.
Then, 2018 saw the county reach the final of the Under 16 Eugene Carey competition, losing to Galway in Mallow (overturning the Carrigdhoun final result). Earlier in the summer, they had won the Kiladangan Tournament in Tipperary, beating Tipp, Galway and Kilkenny, while they triumphed in the Todd Nolan Cup in Kerry, overcoming Limerick and Waterford.
To some extent, those previous wins will count for nothing on Sunday as all five Munster sides start at the same point on the grid, but there will be some confidence to be taken from having beaten their Munster counterparts previously.
While the changing of the minor grade from Under 18 to Under 17 means that there are fewer examples of 'underage' players taking part, given that there is just a gap of a year to Under 16, it did happen to some extent last year and Cork are able to draw upon the experience of a number of key players who featured last year, including the midfield partnership of Ethan Twomey and Luke Horgan, defenders Ciarán O'Brien and Cian McCarthy and attackers Daniel Hogan and Jack Cahalane.
Cork will have learned important lessons from last year, when they won their first game against Clare and last outing against Waterford but lost to Tipperary and Limerick in between.
The Tipp defeat in Thurles was on a scoreline of 4-15 to 1-14 and was ultimately the difference between making the Munster final and not, as Tipp, Cork and Waterford finished level in second place on four points each, Tipp reaching the decider against Limerick with a scoring difference of twelve compared to Cork's three and Waterford's minus-17. The Premier County then went on to defeat Limerick in the provincial decider and lost out by just two points against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final.
In a situation where they may be overrun this time, the hope is that Cork can staunch any bleeding an ensure that a loss isn't an insurmountable obstacle, but ideally they won't find themselves in such a scenario.
The Rebels, Tipp and Limerick are considered the strongest three of the five counties, meaning that - like the senior team - the first two games are of utmost importance, with a win essential in at least one of them.
Starting off with a home game in the Park is the perfect opportunity to lay down a marker, with the experience of those players from 2018 potentially a factor, given that it will be a new stadium for so many on the field.
In that regard, a win would take some pressure off, but equally defeat would mean travelling to Limerick for what would take on the effect of a make-or-break game, despite it being just the second of four outings.
Cork will hope that they can find the positive stat and build on that.
CORK (MH v Tipperary): Brion Saunderson (Midleton); Shane Kingston (Ballinora), Cian McCarthy (Blackrock), Ciarán O'Brien (St Catherine's); Cian McCarthy (St Oliver Plunkett's), Ciarán Joyce (Castlemartyr), Brian O'Sullivan (Kanturk); Ethan Twomey (St Finbarr's), Luke Horgan (Glen Rovers); Darragh Flynn (Ballygiblin), Daire O'Leary (Watergrasshill), Daniel Hogan (Sarsfields); Colm McCarthy (Sarsfields), Jack Cahalane (St Finbarr's), Paul O'Riordan (Tracton). Subs: Conor Reynolds (Charleville), Lee Quilligan (Glen Rovers), Tim Twohig (Bandon), Eoin Downey (Glen Rovers), Leon Doocey (Castlelyons), Colin Walsh (Kanturk), Isaac Walsh (Lisgoold), Seán Walsh (Carrigtwohill), Jake Carr (Fermoy)
TIPPERARY (MH panel): John Campion (Drom & Inch), Conor O'Dwyer (Cashel King Cormacs), Ben Loughman (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams), Cathal Deeley (St Mary's), Ciarán Lloyd (Moyne-Templetuohy), Ciarán McCormack (Loughmore-Castleiney), Colm Fogarty (Lorrha-Dorrha), Conor McKelvey (Silvermines), Conor Ryan (Borrisokane), Conor Stapleton (Thurles Sarsfields), Darragh Brennan (Skeheenarinky), Darragh Stakelum (Durlas Óg), Ed Connolly (Loughmore-Castleiney), Eoin Marnane (Golden-Kilfeacle), Gearóid Ryan (Cappawhite), Henry Fogarty (Thurles Sarsfields), Jack Leamy (Golden-Kilfeacle), Jamie Duncan (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams), Kenny Ryan (Toomevara), Luke Shanahan (Upperchurch-Drombane), Matthew Power (Ballina), Michael Corcoran (Silvermines), Michael Tierney (Shannon Rovers), Páidí Williams (Kilruane MacDonaghs), Paudie Kinnane (Drom & Inch), Paul McLoughlin (Nenagh Éire Óg), Paul Seymour (Kiladangan), Ryan Walsh (Fethard), Sam Loughran (Ballina), Shane Gleeson (Kiladangan), Stephen Browne (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams), Stephen Ferncombe (Clonoulty-Rossmore), Tony Cahill (Drom & Inch)