Thursday 22 February 2018

'Beating Tipp will count for nothing if we don't back it up' - Meade

Luke Meade is pictured at the launch of the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling U-21 All-Ireland Championship launch in Dublin today. Follow all the U-21 Hurling Championship action at #HurlingToTheCore Photo: Sportsfile
Luke Meade is pictured at the launch of the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling U-21 All-Ireland Championship launch in Dublin today. Follow all the U-21 Hurling Championship action at #HurlingToTheCore Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Not many can boast about being called up to their senior county squad while still in secondary school but Luke Meade was destined to make a mark with Cork's hurlers from a young age.

Meade was a sixth-year student preparing for his Leaving Certificate when the phone rang and it was All-Ireland-winning Cork captain Mark Landers, then a Rebel selector, on the other line.

Only just out of minor and on his mid-morning break in Hamilton High School in Bandon, the Newceston attacker was shocked when asked to join the Cork squad before the Munster SH League commenced and realise his dream.

"It was weird enough," the Bord Gáis Energy U-21 ambassador recalls. "I remember I got the phone call off Mark Landers and I couldn't really believe it. Going back into class I didn't learn much that day. It was an unreal experience.

"You're nearly like a fan at that stage coming in and training away with the Cork players. I got the phone call at break time and I rang my parents after that to tell them I won't be studying as much as I should be."

Walking into the Cork dressing-room for the first time as a fresh-faced youngster was a "nerve-racking experience" and with a series of hamstring injuries derailing his impact, it took time to find his feet.

This spring was the first clear run that the 20-year-old has had and after some steady league performances, "the big goal for the year" was to nail down a starting berth in the championship 15.

Along with other championship debutants Colm Spillane, Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Shane Kingston, Meade burst into the public consciousness last Sunday when the Rebels put reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary to the sword in Thurles.

The crafty left-hander fired three points with his pace a constant torment to a flailing Premier defence and even when he made way in the 66th minute, his replacement, Michael Cahalane, hit the match-winner to cap a special day for Kieran Kingston's men.

While few saw it coming, confidence was bubbling within the Cork camp in the build-up and Meade, who collected a Fitzgibbon Cup medal with Mary I earlier this year, outlined the lack of baggage carried by many of the current crop despite negative vibes in the county.

"We all thought we had a really good chance of winning. Not too many people outside the group thought we'd much of a chance but we always thought we could do it. We had a lot of new fellas coming in, it's a fresh start really," he said.

From also-rans before last weekend, Cork are now viewed as All-Ireland contenders by many, particularly on Leeside, but Meade is quick to note that last Sunday's win counts for little if they don't follow up against Waterford.

And after their classic shoot-out with Tipp, it's likely to be far more tactical against the Déise, "one of the top three sides in the country".

"It's been mad," Meade said. "Every single person you meet is coming up and congratulating you, but you just have to put it out of your head and not listen to it too much. Just listen to the management and the players because they are the ones that matter really.

"The last couple of years the newspapers or whatever, the media were harsh on Cork ... I don't know if they were harsh but Cork weren't performing well or winning matches so it's nice to be back in a winning situation - but it's only one match.

"If we go out and lose to Waterford, there might be the same feelings again around the county so we just have to push on again. That'll be another big game. They are a totally different team to Tipp really in the way they play.

"So it will be a new challenge and we'll do our best. They play much differently to Tipp with a lot of players back. In the training we do we'll focus on how to get past that.

"It's a totally different challenge but we are looking forward to it."

Irish Independent

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