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Sean O'Donoghue of Cork in action against Dessie Hutchinson of Waterford last weekend, where the hurlers started well but still came up short. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Sean O'Donoghue of Cork in action against Dessie Hutchinson of Waterford last weekend, where the hurlers started well but still came up short. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
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Sporting lessons from the Cork hurlers, Páirc Uí Chaoimh under lights and Kobe

LESSONS from the last sporting weekend of January.

1) You can score goals too early in hurling: The Rebels stitched two in the opening exchanges down in Walsh Park from the in-form Shane Kingston and Conor Lehane. Given Waterford were missing a clutch of marquee players from Tadhg de Burca, Kevin Moran and Austin Gleeson to Noel Connors, Pauric Mahony and Maurice Shanahan, it wasn't unreasonable to expect Cork to take full advantage.

Instead the Déise settled down in defence and out-hustled Cork in the middle third. Kieran Kingston and his selectors were experimenting to a degree, with Robert Downey at full-back, Mark Coleman in the middle and Darragh Fitzgibbon at 11 but it was disappointing to see Cork caught by the same issues that have plagued them in recent years.

What was especially galling was Liam Cahill, who enjoyed rich success at Cork's expense when he was at the helm of the Tipp minors and U21s, is now in charge in Waterford. 

Gaining the early initiative must have lulled Cork into a false sense of security. 

The night before, Tipp's nine-point advantage was wiped out by Limerick and given the pace and intensity of modern hurling no lead is safe. Cork actually proved that with a second Kingston goal late on was followed by a few wides that could have snatched a draw for the visitors.

There were a few positives for Cork. Kingston followed up 0-7 from play for UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup with 2-2 and Robert Downey was decent in the unfamiliar number three geansaí. They created numerous goal chances.

Can they marry that with attitude and work-rate on Saturday night against Tipp? Or will we have to keep bemoaning their lack of consistency all year?

2) The footballers aren't going to cruise through Division 3: On-duty in the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght, we had to rely on Twitter and Mark Woods and Barry O'Donovan's analysis after for a Cork football fix. Thankfully they got the job done in the Páirc against Offaly but only after a first-half scare.

The loss to Limerick in the McGrath Cup final put Ronan McCarthy's charges on red-alert on the eve of the league but they still needed a five-point injection from sub Michael Hurley to push on in the second half. It seemed odd, incidentally, that Hurley was cast in the role of impact sub again, given he was on fire against Tipp recently in preseason. Perhaps his raw speed is best served from the bench.

To be fair to the management, they were looking at various options and blooding U20 graduates. Luke Connolly, Brian Hurley, Paul Kerrigan and Mark Collins were all absent.

There's pressure this spring because Cork need to get promoted to ensure they can make the Super 8s and not be sent into the new Tier 2 Championship should they lose to Kerry in May. In that regards, results are a priority. 

And at least Páirc Uí Chaoimh looks magnificent after various setbacks and huge investment.

Still, as Barry O'Donovan wrote (on the column to the right): "If this campaign is about performance levels and creating vibrancy and excitement... (this is) a Cork team still in the process of finding themselves."

That's grand of course and just because Cork lifted minor and U20 All-Irelands in 2019 they've no right to anything at senior level. It's important to remember, as the season unfolds. 

3) Kobe Bryant transcended basketball: 

The end of January is the most important in the basketball calendar in Ireland, across three days of National Cup finals. Cork teams Rebel Wheelers, Tradehouse Central Ballincollig and Neptune's U18s duly delivered in cracking games in Tallaght, while Singleton's SuperValu Brunell fell short.

It's still a minority sport on these shore but NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, killed at just 41 in a helicopter crash, was a bona fide international basketball legend whose career resonated across the Atlantic.

As Ballincollig's Adrian O'Sullivan, now a pro in Germany tweeted: "Cold and dark times!

"When I was a kid I emulated that lob pass from game 7 of the 2000 WCF to @ciaransully time and time again. If it was raining outside we’d to it with balled up socks in the landing.

"showed us what hard work really is. U changed my way of thinking! #ripmamba"