EVEN in the warm afterglow of a famous victory Ronan McCarthy still insisted Cork can’t afford any complacency against Tipperary in the Munster football final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday at 1.30pm.
Cork are 1/5 with the bookies to land their first provincial crown since 2012 following the sensational last-gasp win over Kerry, but the Cork manager is taking no notice.
“We’re not in a position to take anyone for granted. I said it before the Limerick game in the championship last year and that still applies today,” McCarthy said.
“We’ve come a distance, but to be a top team at the top level we’ve got to show consistency and I think we’re doing that.
“This is a good test for the panel in dealing with expectation, which brings pressure, and it will be interesting to see if the players are able to handle that. Have we got the maturity to handle it?
“We had no interest, for example, in going into the Kerry game as underdogs or under the radar. And in the same way on Sunday, we’re not too interested in being favourites or not.
“A win against the second-best team in the country ends doubts about players getting back to that level because they’re back there now.
“The other side of that is you must keep on doing it on a consistent basis and they’ll have to do it against Kerry next year. What you know now is that you have it in the bag and you know you can do it if you’re properly prepared.
“Maybe that doubt had seeped in over a long number of years, but now they’re back in business,” he added.
McCarthy can also draw from his own experiences as a player in 2002 when Cork defeated Kerry by 0-15 to 1-9 in the semi-final and needed two games to overcome Tipperary before losing to the Kingdom in the All-Ireland semi-final.
“We were absolutely blessed to get out of Thurles with a draw. Declan Browne gave an exhibition.
“He was a top-class player, one of the best forwards in Munster in the past 30 years, no question about it.
“We never got control of the game, were always chasing it and Tipp were deservedly ahead of us. Only for Colin Corkery at the other end for us we would have been beaten.
“By the time the replay came around we were more focused and ready and Tipp were probably a bit deflated at losing a great chance of winning.
“We beat them well the second day when Brendan Cummins played centre-forward that day.”
A more pressing matter is the composition of the 26-strong panel and the starting 15, mindful there are well over 30 players contending for a jersey.
And those who don’t get one will have to watch the match at home on tv because of government restrictions.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge, but that’s the nature of elite sport. We don’t ever apologise to the players for that. It’s competition and it’s always the next target.
“It’s going to be very, very difficult to pick a panel and a team, but to my mind, it’s generally not a good sign if it’s easy to pick.
“We have a lot of players at different phases in their development. Take Sean Meehan for example. He played very little in the league but was outstanding against Kerry.
“You’re not looking to make wholesale changes or anything like that, but looking for a bolter, maybe, someone who is a bit of a surprise.
“And the message to players has been a clean slate and we start again. The door is open to everybody. I thought we were brave in our selection and I think we have to continue to be brave.
“You ask for players to show courage when they go out on the pitch and I suppose as a management team we have to do the same.”
Bloody Sunday’s centenary has strong Tipperary connotations but McCarthy is focussing only on Cork.
“The message here is to keep it simple and no matter what jerseys Tipp are wearing it’s still a competitive game. We’ve got to be sure we’re ready.”