What a difference twelve months has made for Cork boss Kieran Kingston. He is preparing for a Munster final this Sunday after an outstanding beginning to their championship campaign.
Ahead of the game, he has expressed his belief that he doesn’t expect his younger players to have to lead.
The difference in Kingston’s side is simply amazing. Twelve months ago, Cork suffered a shock qualifier defeat to Wexford in Thurles.
Already in 2017, the Rebels have won in the Home of Hurling twice and head to Tom Semple’s field on Sunday looking to win the Munster title.
This defeat caused Kingston and his management side to take his Cork side in a new direction. Over the winter, the management team made several changes to his panel.
The decision was taken to focus on youth. During the league a number of inexperienced young men were handed starting jerseys.
While Kingston would have known just how talented these hurlers were, he couldn’t have expected them to thrive the way they have.
So far, Cork’s youth have been one of the main talking points of the championship. But this hasn’t come from nowhere, in fact, Cork have been keeping an eye on these hurlers through a development squad he kept during 2016. He said, via the Irish Examiner:
“Those lads were on a development panel, which was worked on offline last year.
“We felt just because Cork hadn’t won an All-Ireland minor in 16 years or an U21 in 19 years, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good players coming through who are capable of stepping up and playing at senior level. Cork hurling is stronger than people think between 14 and 19/20.”
Despite their instant success, the Rebel boss is careful in protecting his younger members of the side. No matter how well they’re performing, Kingston still doesn’t expect leadership from these guys.
Rather, the Tracton man feels that this responsibility should come from his more experienced hurlers. To be fair, he has certainly got this from his elder statesmen.
But still, he is eager to keep the pressure off his younger hurlers.
“We can’t expect younger fellas to lead, they’ll follow the more experienced guys, and our experienced players have been fantastic in the last two games. That’s most important, that’s way more important.”
The Cork manager also was quick to acknowledge both his side’s strong underdog tag, and also the importance of a Munster medal.
“A Munster medal is a badge of honour. They don’t come around too often. Cork have only won one in 11 years. That was 2014. That is not a lot for a county like Cork.”
Kevin Daly, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man where we looked ahead to the Munster final between Cork and Clare, and reviewed last week’s GAA action.