Offaly U20 hurler, Adam Screeney.
Offaly U20 hurler, Adam Screeney. 

Preview: All-Ireland U20 Hurling Final - Offaly v Cork

Sunday, June 4 All-Ireland U20 Hurling Championship Final

Cork v Offaly, FBD Semple Stadium, 3pm (TG4)

Ref: Chris Mooney (Dublin)

(E.T. & Winner on the Day)

The All-Ireland U20 Hurling Championship is the gift that keeps on giving and Sunday’s Final between Cork and Offaly is poised to be a cracker.

Both teams were seriously impressive when winning their provincial championships and play an exciting brand of hurling that’s a nice mixture of frantic work-rate and attacking flair.

Cork have won two of the last three All-Irelands in this grade and this year’s team is arguably better than its predecessors.

Three of their players, Ben Cunningham, Eoin Downey, and Colin Walsh, have already made the step up to the senior grade, and the grit that Cork have shown along the way to this final underlines the character in the team.

They were down at half-time in two of their Munster Championship matches and came back to win and also overcame a four-point deficit in the Munster Final against Clare.

Ben Cunningham is the main man in their attack, with a personal tally of 2-44 from their five games thus far, but he has strong support from the likes of Diarmuid Healy, William Buckley, Colin Walsh and Ross O’Sullivan.

Team captain Michael Mullins drives the team forward from midfield, and their full-back line of Sean Daly, Shane Kingston, and Darragh O’Sullivan has been a key component in a team that has conceded just three goals in five matches.

Cork U20 hurler, Ben Cunningham. 
Cork U20 hurler, Ben Cunningham. 

The battle between that Cork full-back line and the Offaly full-forward line of Adam Screeney, Charlie Mitchell, and Cormac Egan will be worth the price of admission alone on Sunday.

Screeney has been the player of the championship so far, scoring 2-51 in six matches and lighting up the competition with his mixture of speed, skill, and devastating finishing.

Team captain, Charlie Mitchell, has hit 4-17 so far in the competition and was one of the brighter lights on a senior Offaly team that was defeated in the Joe McDonagh Cup Final.

Egan isn’t as prolific a scorer as Screeney and Mitchell, but the physical power and direct running he offers provides the perfect foil and has played a huge part in Offaly’s run to the Final.

Much like Cork, Offaly have showed character as well as hurling class throughout the season, but most notably in the Leinster Final against Wexford when they held on for a thrilling win despite the red-carding of Mitchell.

Cork are slight favourites going into the match, but the sheer will to win that Offaly showed that day almost guarantees that this match will be one of very fine margins.

The Faithful County will bring a huge and very vocal crowd with them too, and team manager Leo O’Connor hopes that might give them a vital edge on the day.

“Dare I say it but I think the Cork players are going to experience something very, very different,” says O’Connor.

“They are going to be running out in front of an Offaly crowd that are ravenous for success. There’s been 20 years of unsuccessful teams.

“There’s been good days in the middle of all that, but in terms of the hurling world, I just think it is very unique up here at the moment. It’s something I’ll never forget and I’ve experienced a lot over the years.”

Offaly’s path to the final

Offaly 2-22 Westmeath 1-17

Offaly 2-17 Meath 0-9

Offaly 2-17 Antrim 0-8

Offaly 2-20 Kildare 1-10

Offaly 3-20 Galway 2-17

Offaly 1-19 Dublin 2-12

Offaly 1-21 Wexford 0-22

Cork’s path to the final

Cork 1-17 Waterford 1-13

Cork 1-28 Tipperary 1-19

Cork 1-24 Clare 0-22

Cork 1-19 Limerick 0-21

Cork 1-23 Clare 1-21