When assessing the strengths of a county’s U21 team, it is usually instructive to see how they fared as a minor team three years previously.
Depending on the strength of subsequent underage teams, in theory a large number of Cork and Tipperary's minor players from 2010 should form the nucleus of the U21 sides due to contest the Munster final in Semple Stadium on Wednesday night.
For example, when Kildare played Longford in the Leinster U21 final last week, 22 of the 30 players that started the game (12 from Longford and 10 from Kildare) had featured when the sides met in the Leinster Minor Championship semi-final in 2010.
Under current Cork senior selector Brian Cuthbert, Cork won the Munster minor title three years ago before they lost to Tyrone in the All-Ireland final. En route to the Munster title, the Rebels beat Tipperary by 2-12 to 2-9 in the provincial semi-final, gaining revenge for a shock defeat to the Premier County at the same stage of the competition 12 months previously.
Cork led by eight points (2-7 to 1-2) at the break, but David Power’s charges put in a superb second half performance and had the gap down to two in the closing stages before Dan Mac Eoin kicked a crucial score for the Rebels.
Interestingly, nine of Cork’s starting line-up that day - David Hanrahan, Tom Clancy, Alan Cronin, Damien Cahalane, Jamie Wall, John O’Rourke, Mark Sugrue, Dan MacEoin and Brian Hurley - will feature once again tomorrow night, proving perhaps that manager Cuthbert had an exceptionally talented crop that year. That Clancy, Cahalane and O’Rourke have all been promoted to the senior squad and have seen game time in the Allianz League this spring backs up that assertion.
At seven, Tipperary’s conversion rate over the three years is lower. However, that can be easily explained when you consider Power took the following year’s minor team all the way to the All-Ireland title in 2011.
Power stepped down as minor manager at the end of last season and has moved on to the U21 grade with largely the same group of players, borrowing heavily from his successful minor teams in this year’s U21 campaign. In their semi-final win over Clare, Tipp featured 10 of the 2011 minor side, and that number has only been reduced to nine for tomorrow night’s encounter because goalkeeper Evan Comerford has left the squad.
When you trace the recent history of underage football in both counties, it is no real surprise that they are contesting the Munster final in Semple Stadium tomorrow night.
Cork are chasing their third title in a row and their 28th in total, while Tipperary go in search of just their second having won provincial honours at U21 level for the first time in 2010.
Munster Minor Semi-Final 2010: Cork 2-12 Tipperary 2-9
CORK: D Hanrahan; D Crowley, M O’Shea, D Lester; T Clancy, J Burns, J Wall; D Cahalane, J O’Rourke; K Hallisey, M Sugrue, A Cronin (capt); K Sheehan, B Hurley, S Duggan. Subs: D Murphy for Crowley, 48; S Ryan for O’Shea, 56; D McEoin for Sugrue, 59. Blood sub: D Mac Eoin for Hurley 17/19.
TIPPERARY: P Nolan; P Dalton, C O’Sullivan, P O’Meara; B Maher, M O’Sullivan, S Taylor; D Leahy, J O’Callaghan; L McGrath, B Harkin, S Leahy; L Boland, L Treacy, B Hewitt. Subs: N O’Meara (O’Sullivan 18); B Walsh (Harkin 50); S Carroll (Treacy 60).