KIERAN McCARTHY profiles the West Cork hurler making a name for himself with Cork
LUKE Meade had only turned 18 a few weeks before he hit the headlines for Cork’s senior hurlers in early January 2015.
In a challenge game against Limerick in Martinstown, this young, wiry teenager bagged a hat-trick of goals, and it caused plenty to sit up and take notice – but it didn’t surprise anyone in Newcestown.
They’ve known for years that this quiet local lad who lets his hurling do the talking is capable of big things.
‘I 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,’ explained Charlie Wilson, current club coaching officer and former underage club chairman who is also Luke’s uncle.
‘He 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.
‘He was always one we felt was going to make it.’
These days Meade is coming off the back of several impressive performances for the Cork hurlers in the Munster Senior Hurling League – he scored 0-3 as a sub against Kerry, started and scored a goal against Limerick, started and scored a point against Waterford, started against Clare before going off injured, and started again in the final against Limerick, all games used as a forward.
The Cork management have seen enough in Meade to believe he has what it takes, and the current Cork U21 is in a good place to get minutes under his belt in the league over the next few months, which is the next step along in his development.
The current Mary I student, who plays under Jamie Wall, is a late developer in many ways, more so physically. Six football tall, he’s still quite light for senior inter-county hurling – but he is still developing physically. What he lacks in brawn and muscle however, he makes up for with speed of thought and intelligence.
Moving up through the ranks with Newcestown, Meade was always physically light but he worked on his pace and his skills, and his attitude, desire and work rate is top notch. In a recent game for Cork, GPS tracking highlighted Meade’s work rate: the ground he covered that day was above anyone else on the pitch.
Over the next few years he will grow into his bones but you don’t want a situation either where he becomes ‘too big’, because he has shaped his game around his size. He was small as a kid so he developed other aspects of his game to the point now that when he does fill out, that will compliment his array of skills.
His biggest weapon is his brain. He is mobile and has great movement, but his understanding of the game is second to none. Play him centre forward and instead of sitting there and making life easy for the centre back, Meade could pull him from pillar to post, leave a hole there for others to exploits. There are so many strings to his bow.
Eddie Murphy saw this when he was in charge of Newcestown’s intermediate hurlers back in 2013; he saw enough of Meade, then U17, to bring him into the first team as a corner forward that year, his performances there saw him included in the Cork minor set-up the following year where he scored 2-4 against Kerry and 0-1 against Limerick.
Meade has been involved with the Cork U21 hurlers the past two seasons and the 20-year-old is eligible again this year.
By the time Cork’s Munster U21 hurling championship tie against Waterford on July 13th rolls around, we’ll know more about where Meade stands in Kieran Kingston’s senior plans. He was brought into the training squad last year and seems certain to gain some league experience with Cork in Division 1A. That’s the next step for him.
One criticism perhaps is that he doesn’t score enough as a forward, maybe he doesn’t have that selfish, greedy streak that the best forwards have, but stats can be deceiving too because while Meade might not be finishing moves, he could be involved further out the field. We’re dealing with a playmaker more so than a finisher.
This Newcestown product is going in the right direction. He’s not the finished product by any stretch – how could he be, he’s only 20 – but if he continues to improve and when he physically develops, the end product will be quite something: an intelligent hurler who can pull the strings for club and county.