Minors on the brink of final return
All-Ireland MHC Semi-Final: Cork v Dublin, Sunday August 13, Croke Park, 1.30pm
Cork's minor hurlers will take to the field again next weekend hell bent on continuing their epic season which has seen them battle past a highly fancied Tipperary side, that after a thrilling draw the first time out, before taking out a hapless Clare side to take the Munster Crown in front of a full house at Semple Stadium in Thurles in July.
While the side have been hugely impressive on the pitch their season may well be remembered by many for the inspirational guard of honour they provided for the senior side as they ran from the bowels of the old Semple Stadium into the light of provincial glory.
The minors will again play the role of opening act for the big boys this weekend as they take on a hugely respected young Dublin side that have been really impressive themselves this year. Cork's young stars will again benefit from having a huge Rebel support in headquarters, which seemed to drive them on in Thurles last month.
Led off the pitch by a true hurling man, manager Denis Ring, Cork will be expected to perform well this Sunday however no stone will be left unturned as they attempt to secure a place in the showpiece game.
"It has been tough" Denis told The Corkman after training on Monday evening.
"We haven't had as much contact with the lads as we would have liked. With the Under 17s going all the way last Sunday and most playing senior, intermediate, Under 21 and so in for their clubs we have only been able to have two sessions with the full squad.
"Unfortunately on some occasions, because of calls upon the players from other quarters, we have only had 12-15 available for training out of a panel of 30. Look, there is nothing we can do about that now but in truth it has been a long time since the Munster Final and we are hoping that we have put all the right plans in place for this one."
The run the Under 17s went on may have hampered the ability of eight of Ring's players to attend sessions with the minors however the achievement of last Sunday's Croke Park win also brings with it plenty of positives.
"A lot of the lads have got experience of playing in Croke Park and more importantly winning there. That is something you just can't teach. The size of the place can be intimidating.
"We are really lucky now to have Pairc Uí Chaoimh open to us and we are delighted that the County Board made it available to our lads for some sessions. It is a magnificent place and gives the players a chance to be in a place that is somewhat similar to Croke Park. That kind of detail might help us."
While Ring is confident in his own player's abilities he is also only too aware of what this Dublin team bring to the table.
"They lost two goals to Kilkenny in the first few minutes and were back on terms 2-2 to 0-8 after 10 minutes. They beat up a really good Wexford side and will fancy this one. We need to deal with how they play.
"We, of course, will concentrate on our own game, but I have travelled and seen the way they play. They pull deep at puck outs and can revert back to type really quickly.
"They tend to crowd the middle so we will need to work out do we go around them or over them.
"These will all be discussed and hopefully we will have our plans in place.
"We need to hold their talisman Sean Currie and if we can do that effectively we have a great chance."
While this game will be won on the field the crowd will be a huge plus for Cork.
"The Cork crowd have an affection for this team. There were massive crowds at the two games with Tipperary and the amount of people that came in early in Thurles to see them was probably the biggest crowd to ever be at a minor game.
"Our lads loved it and with the seniors playing again this weekend I would call on as many people as possible to get in early and support the young lads. They have a huge challenge ahead, but hopefully they can do it."
On the injury front there will be decisions to be made on a few fellows on Thursday night, but hopefully things will go to plan.
"There will be a few fitness tests on three or four players on Thursday night, but hopefully things will go ok for all of them. The boys are really excited and hopefully they can play as well as we know they can and that is as much as we can hope for."
Throw in is at 1.30pm on Sunday with a big Cork crowd looking to carry both the youngsters and the old fellas on to their respective showpiece ties.