Preview: Weekend's Hurling Championship action
Saturday, August 3
Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U20 Hurling Championship semi-final
Kilkenny v Cork, O'Moore Park, 2pm TG4
Both teams look well matched on paper, but the variable will be just how well or not Cork will have recovered from the mental blow of losing the Munster Final to Tipperary.
They seemed set to avenge last year’s All-Ireland Final defeat to the Premier County when they led by two points deep into injury-time, but then Jake Morris popped up with a last-gasp injury time goal for Tipperary.
It was the sort of defeat that can sow seeds of self-doubt in a group of young hurlers, and Cork can’t afford to be anything other than fully confident going in against a talented Kilkenny team.
The Cats beat Wexford in the Leinster Final without the services of Adrian Mullen who was rested for that match because of his commitments with the Kilkenny senior team, but he should be available to them on Saturday.
Kilkenny also boast clinical finishers in the shape of Eoin Cody, Niall Brassil, Sean Ryan, and Evan Shefflin, so the Cork defence will have to be on their toes.
They’ll believe that if they can limit the influence of Mullen in particular then they’ll have enough firepower themselves at the other end of the pitch to get the job done, with Brian Turnbull, Sean Twomey and Shane O’Regan especially dangerous.
It’s primed to be a high-scoring, end to end contest, and whoever comes out on top will likely do so by a slim margin.
Cork: Ger Collins; Conor O’Callaghan, James Keating, Eoin Roche; Ger Millerick, Sean O’Leary Hayes, Robert Downey; Ryan Walsh, Daire Connery; Sean Twomey, Craig Hanifin, Tommy O’Connell; Brian Turnbull, Shane O’Regan, Liam O’Shea.
Kilkenny: Dean Mason; James Brennan, Conor Flynn, Mikey Butler; Conor Heary, Michael Carey, David Blanchfield; Conor Murphy, Evan Shefflin; Eoin O'Shea, Niall Brassil, Adrian Mullen; Sean Ryan, Aaron Brennan, Eoin Cody.
Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U20 Hurling Championship B (Richie McElligott Cup) Final
Down v Kerry, Pairc Tailteann, 3.45pm
Kerry have been the Kings of this grade in recent years and are bidding to make it three All-Ireland titles in a row.
They showed a lot of quality in their semi-final victory over Meath when they came from eight points down early in the second-half to eventually win by five.
Dual stars Barry O’Mahony and Donal O’Sullivan inspired that comeback and should be to the fore again for the kingdom along with classy forward Michael Slattery.
Down will go into the game as underdogs but posted a total of 4-21 in their semi-final win over Sligo and are backboned by a good number of county senior panellists so they’ll be no pushovers.
Sunday August 4
Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U20HC semi-final
Tipperary v Wexford, Nowlan Park, 1.45pm TG4
The Tipperary players will surely still be buzzing after the manner of their Munster Final victory over Cork which they won thanks to an injury-time goal from Jake Morris.
That man Morris certainly looked like his confidence was sky-high when he came on as a sub for the Tipperary seniors in their epic All-Ireland semi-final victory over Wexford last weekend.
He had a goal disallowed, scored the last point of the match, and generally hurled like someone in a rich vein of form.
He’s one of three Tipperary senior panellists in this U-20 team along with centre-back Paddy Caddell and midfielder Jerome Cahill, and all three have been really impressive so far during this U-20 campaign.
Cadell is flanked by Bryan O’Mara and Michael Purcell in a teak-tough half-back line, while Morris links really well with the dangerous Conor Bowe in the Tipp attack.
Wexford will be underdogs, but they proved against a very highly rated Kilkenny team in the Leinster Final that they’re a very good team in their own right.
Eoin Molloy and Niall Murphy are the key men in a solid defence, Charlie McGuckin and Ross Banville are a dynamic midfield partnership, while Sean O’Connor is the pick of their forwards.
It should be a competitive encounter, but Tipp’s greater firepower should see them through in the end.
Tipperary: Aaron Browne; Conor McCarthy, Michael Purcell, Craig Morgan; Eoghan Connolly, Paddy Cadell, Bryan O’Mara; Ciaran Connolly, Jerome Cahill; Gearoid O’Connor, Jake Morris, Joe Fogarty; Andrew Ormond, Billy Seymour, Conor Bowe.