BY DENIS HURLEY
IT'S a quirky stat that Cork's two West Cork stars, Luke Meade and Mike Cahalane, have only spent five minutes together on the pitch so far in the current championship campaign.
In the opening round of the Munster championship, debutant Meade from Newcestown ran himself into the ground for 65 minutes before being replaced by his former Hamilton High School team-mate, who announced his arrival on the elite scene with a goal with his first touch in championship hurling.
Next day out against Waterford, Bandon's Cahalane got more of a run, replacing Shane Kingston after 55 minutes, but on the hour mark Meade departed to be replaced by Luke O'Farrell.
Against Clare in the provincial final last weekend, it was similar to the Tipp game, Cahalane for Meade on 65 and while there was no goal accruing this time, the overall outcome was the same, Cork winning as the young pair claimed provincial medals.
Not since Pat Kenneally and Darren O'Donoghue â from Newcestown and Bandon respectively, like the current tyros â featured in the defeat to Clare in 1995 have Cork had two players from Carbery in the same side in the championship.
The progression of Meade and Cahalane was both half-expected and a pleasant surprise though. As key figures of the Hammies team which reached the Dr Harty Cup semi-final in 2014, the pair had bright futures ahead but of course later that year Cahalane received news that he would have to stop playing.
It's still less than a year since he returned to action, making his ascent all the more impressive â it's fair to say that his best is definitely yet to come. Meade hasn't been rushed either.Â
He played in the Munster SHL for Cork in 2016 but management opted to leave him focus on the U21 side when the national league commenced.
That extra year of hot-housing, rather than being thrown in raw, has helped him to take on the demands of top-level senior hurling this time round, while this Thursday will also see him be part of the Cork U21 side taking on Waterford, laden with members of the senior panel.
As the pair develop, more game-time together, building on the understanding they established in school, can be looked forward to.
âI was like a fan, I was nearly trying to run on to the pitch to celebrate,' said Meade of Cahalane's goal against Tipp.
âI'm absolutely delighted for him to be back playing really. He's an absolute gent, we're all just delighted for him.
âHe's an absolute legend and he's a really nice fella. He was probably the best player I played with growing up.
âIn the Harty Cup there with Hammies, he was carrying us through most games. We were absolutely gutted when we heard the news but when we heard about him coming back, we were ecstatic really.'
Meade is not short on admirers of his own either, though.Â
His uncle Charlie, a Newcestown legend and goalkeeper on the Carbery county SHC-winning team of 1994, wasn't showing any nepotism at the start of this year when he assessed Luke's qualities.
âI remember when we won a minor A county, we only had three fellas up to the age and another three up to the age the following year so we had a lot of U16s playing and Luke was only 15 at the time,' he said.
âHe played wing back and his skill and work rate was excellent and he worked well with the bigger lads around him. As a player it's his skill and his vision that stand out. When he gets the ball he can pick fellas out in better positions quite quickly.
âHe was always one we felt was going to make it.'
On Monday, despite a late return home from Thurles, Luke was up early to the Newcestown grounds, helping out with the club's CÃºl Camp, which was running all week.Â
Success hasn't imbued egotism and it's the same with Cahalane. There shouldn't be any fear of either of them.