‘There was a bit of jealousy maybe because we want to feel it ourselves. They inspired us too’

WITH THEIR spot booked in the All-Ireland decider, the Cork U20 hurlers took to their seats in Portlaoise earlier this month to watch their football counterparts.

Kilkenny had been accounted for the in the hurling semi-final that acted as curtain-raiser to the main show as Cork and Dublin faced off with All-Ireland silverware on the line.

Cork’s eventual football victory did plenty to fire the motivation for their hurling squad.

On Saturday at the Gaelic Grounds they get their own shot at glory in the Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland decider against Tipperary.

“We stayed on, of course we did, obviously it was a great day in Portlaoise,” says Cork captain James Keating.

“There was a massive Cork crowd up there, afterwards we were on the pitch with the footballers. We just want to feel that on Saturday too, there was a bit of jealousy maybe because we want to feel it ourselves.

“They inspired us too, 1-6 to no score down, they just kept on going. That is probably something we can take from them too, to never give up. Go full hog until the end. Cathal O’Mahony, I would be very friendly with him, we went to school together. He was obviously unbelievable for the footballers all year.”

Keating and O’Mahony are not the only products from those school teams in Mitchelstown CBS to shine with Mark Keane now playing Australian Rules for Collingwood.

“I think they are very impressed with him, he is on the reserves for the first team now. He is getting on very well. I think he is coming home for a few weeks at the end of September or start of October, but he is obviously living the life over there.”

At school Cork netminder Anthony Nash provided an ideal figure to look up to.

“He is teaching Business in Mitchelstown, he is obviously a big influence,” says Keating.

“He was in the school when we came in for first year, he was the first we trained with. We had him all the way through. He obviously knows the score, he has been there a long time now, he was a great influence on us.

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“When you were younger it would hit you more, but the more you get to know him it fades away. Obviously seeing him play Munster finals and even the 2013 All Ireland going up taking penalties it was a great thing to look up to.”

Cork hurling goalkeeper Anthony Nash.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Keating is part of a group chasing an All-Ireland breakthrough after some difficult setbacks of late. He was centre-back for the minor loss to Galway in 2017 and part of the extended U21 panel when they lost out to Tipperary last August.

They suffered another reversal in last month’s Munster final against Tipperary but found solace in the knowledge their interest in the All-Ireland series remained very much alive.

“It was obviously heartbreaking but as soon as we came off the field, we said there was no time feeling sorry for ourselves. We’d 10 days to the next game so we didn’t really have time to think about it.

“We just said there’s no point feeling sorry for ourselves. Ourselves and Tipp were both in an All-Ireland semi-final that night either way so it wasn’t the end of the world but it obviously was gutting. I think we turned around fairly lively and were focused on Kilkenny.”

And now they will get to renew acquaintances with Tipperary, the honour of captaincy creating an extra layer of significance for Keating.

“Ian Butler, he is the sub goalie, he is from Kildorrery too. There hasn’t been a fella from Kildorrery on it for a while so to have two in the one year, obviously being in an All Ireland final, they are delighted at home.

“It’d be nice to bring the cup back to Kildorrery alright. It’s a massive honour. Just an honour to be captain of that bunch of lads. We’ve kind of been together since U14 a lot of them, we just can’t wait for Saturday.”

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