BY DENIS HURLEY
CORK U21 star Gary Murphy believes that last week’s EirGrid Munster U21FC semi-final win over Limerick will have brought the team on ahead of Wednesday’s final against Kerry in Páirc Uí Rinn (7.30pm).
The Rebels were 2-10 to 0-10 winners against the Shannonsiders, but they trailed for almost all of the first half before producing an impressive comeback, with Michael Hurley’s late goal putting a gloss on the scoreline.
Murphy was one of five West Cork starters along with Bantry Blues’ Sean O’Leary, Sean Daly and Eoin Lavers of Dohenys and Carbery Rangers’ Jerry O’Riordan.
On top of that quintet, Hurley (Castlehaven), Clonakilty’s Liam O’Donovan, Mark Buckley of Dohenys and Ilen Rovers clubman Sean O’Donovan all came off the bench to aid the Cork effort.
Operating at corner-forward, the Castletownbere native scored an impressive point as Cork cut the gap coming up to half-time. While he accepts that there is room for improvement, he expects Sean Hayes’ team to have benefited from the outing.
‘Limerick were a good team and they were well-organised,’ he said.
‘They had 80 minutes against a strong Tipperary team behind them, so it was always going to be difficult but I think we learned a lot.
‘Championship is a different animal, the intensity goes up two or three notches. There were a lot of mistakes but we found our feet in the second half and I think it was important that we showed a good attitude and a good resolve.
‘We know how good Kerry are. They’ve won the last three minor All-Irelands and if we don’t perform from the get-go then we’ll be in trouble.’
In 2014, Murphy scored 1-5 as Cork lost by 2-17 to 2-13 to Kerry in the last Munster minor final in the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Ten of that Cork side, managed by fellow Castletownbere man Donal O’Sullivan, are likely to feature on Wednesday, while seven of that Kerry side have featured in the current campaign.
UCC first-year BIS student Murphy has actually played with many of the Kingdom team this year, as the college reached the All-Ireland freshers final, losing to UCD. With almost all of their team boasting All-Ireland minor medals, Kerry will be favourites, but that won’t faze Cork.
‘Everyone is expecting Kerry to win,’ Murphy says, ‘but we’re preparing like we would for any game, we’re not putting ourselves under extra pressure just because it’s a final.
‘In 2014, there was just a kick of a ball in it, a few things different would have changed the outcome. Kerry have won the last three All-Ireland minors but Cork probably gave them their toughest game each time.
‘They’re a good team but we just have to make sure that our attitude is right and to be mentally ready for the challenge on the day.’
It won’t be Murphy’s first outing against the green and gold this year, either – in January he was a half-time sub in the McGrath Cup defeat in Mallow, scoring three points, and he was a late replacement against Galway in the Allianz FL opener at the start of February.
Along with John Mullins and Sean Powter, he has been released back to the U21s for the championship and, regardless of what the rest of the year may hold at senior level, he is thankful for the experience.
‘It was a great honour to be called up,’ he said, ‘I learned a lot from playing and training with guys I’d have watched growing up.
‘For now though the focus is on the U21s and making sure I perform my best for the team.’