BY DENIS HURLEY
CLANN na nGael star Don O’Driscoll won’t be fit in time for Cork’s EirGrid All-Ireland U21FC semi-final clash with Monaghan in Tullamore this Saturday following their dramatic Munster final win over Kerry.
O’Driscoll, so impressive at wing-forward as Cork beat Clare and Waterford to reach the Munster final, missed last week’s one-point win over Kerry after sustaining an ankle injury in a challenge game. Midfielder Ronan O’Toole was also absent from the victory against the Kingdom due to a hamstring problem but could play, while O’Driscoll has been ruled out by manager Seán Hayes.
‘Ronan would have an outside chance, but Don is definitely out, which is a pity,’ he says.
‘Both of them had been doing very well, they’re both big boys, which is obviously a help, and they had taken their chances.
‘The other side of it is that other players will get their opportunity now. You look at the likes of Cian Dorgan last week, he wasn’t named in the 24 originally and he came on and got the winner.
‘He did well, he has a good track record with Ballincollig, in fairness.’
Monaghan have come through a tough Ulster championship campaign, beating Tyrone by 0-13 to 0-11 last week for a first provincial title since 1999.
Hayes is expecting a tough test of his team’s credentials: ‘We haven’t physically seen them,’ he says, ‘but we’ve made a few enquiries up north and we’re hopeful of getting some information and knowledge on them.
‘We know that they have to be a good team; they beat strong Donegal and Tyrone sides to win the provincial championship. They have Ryan McAnespie, Barry McGinn and Conor McCarthy, who have all played senior, so they’ll be well up for the battle.’
In that regard, the to-and-fro Munster final in Tralee will have left the Rebels primed. Having had easy wins against Clare and Waterford, the latter only scoring two points, there may have been fears that Cork would be caught cold by a Kerry team pushed all the way by Tipperary and then Limerick.
Hayes believed in his team’s capabilities, though, having seen them tested in a raft of challenge games: ‘I had been saying all along that, while our championship games hadn’t been of the highest quality, we had been getting some very good challenge matches.
‘We always hoped, and felt, that that would stand to us when we needed something against Kerry. If you look at the team, nearly all of them would have played last year, I think it’s only Seán Powter and Dan Ó Duinnín from the 2015 minor team, so there’s a lot of experience there.
‘You can see it in the make-up of the team, there are a lot of physically strong players there, and hopefully that’ll stand to them against Monaghan.’
- The Cork v Monaghan game will be screened live on TG4 at 4.30pm this Saturday. Dublin meet Mayo in the first semi-final, also in O’Connor Park, Tullamore, at 2.45pm, which will be televised too.