Patrick Horgan has hit 23-439 for Cork yet Liam McCarthy remains out of reach

Patrick Horgan has hit 23-439 for Cork yet Liam McCarthy remains out of reach

Patrick Horgan on his way to scoring a brilliant goal against Tipp. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

THE winter hurling season ended on a disappointingly familiar note for the Cork hurlers.

No fans, brutal conditions but the same sense of what might have been. It's not that Tipp didn't deserve to progress given they'd 11 more wides than their rivals and that bit more muscle and cuteness, it was just that the game was really up for grabs coming down the stretch.

A Robbie O'Flynn effort was inches outside the posts to put Cork two points ahead in the 60th minute, Tipp got the next two scores. Darragh Fitzgibbon fired wide to tie it up again before Jake Morris drilled the killer second Tipp goal after 68 minutes.

Small margins though the key period was probably the 10 minutes after half-time. Cork had the wind, having done well to go in just two in arrears at the break, but conceded a goal to Jason Forde and fell five behind.

Jason Forde turns to celebrate after scoring his goal. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Jason Forde turns to celebrate after scoring his goal. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

The Rebels hurled too closely to the style that had been effective in the opening half, looking for pop passes instead of being that bit more direct. Deccie Dalton was a real impact in the half-forwards early on and it's a great pity he didn't get a couple of balls one-on-one closer to goal with the breeze.

Jack O'Connor showed well inside throughout but simply didn't have the size to secure enough of those deliveries. The Sars rookie was fouled for a couple of converted frees but Cork needed a greater return at the edge of the square when the attack was set up so narrowly. 

Patrick Horgan's goal was audacious but he needed a supply at angles in space to rifle over the couple of points from play Cork required. 

Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Horgan is now up to 23-439 in championship since his debut season way back in 2008 but doesn't seem any closer to getting his hands on a Celtic Cross. Criminal from a Cork perspective.

Over the past three weeks, there was an injection of youth into the team, yet when the pressure was on at the Gaelic Grounds, Seamus Harnedy was the top-scorer from play with 0-4 in a brilliant second-half showing and Horgan was the goalscorer. 

That has to be a worry heading into 2021. Shane Kingston was brilliant at times against Waterford and Dublin but well-policed by Tipp and Robbie O'Flynn's redeployment to midfield robbed Cork of his scoring threat, even if he did curb Noel McGrath's contribution. 

Kingston and O'Flynn are both 23 and wristy but athletic hurlers so will be crucial components in the Cork attack next season and beyond. A bit more brawn up front to supplement them would be huge.

The scenario with Luke Meade summed it up. Meade's work-rate and selflessness was commendable but physically Michael Breen had a real advantage and was able to drive upfield for 0-5.

Darragh Fitzgibbon had a few flashes of class off the bench and Alan Cadogan was a real loss but they don't have the raw aggression Cork lack from midfield up.

Who outside the current squad can offer that? 

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