The Paudie Palmer column: Only a handful of positives for the Cork hurlers as they slip into the long grass

The Paudie Palmer column: Only a handful of positives for the Cork hurlers as they slip into the long grass
Cork's Shane Kingston celebrates scoring a goal at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

SO dear readers, Cork’s Allianz hurling journey for 2020 has reached the end line, without delivering a national title.

I know that you will remind me that the ultimate prize was not a priority, but surely the Rebel county should be good enough, to reach a quarter-final!

I think that Cork were a tad unlucky in Salthill though. By the way if ever a venue should be removed from the sporting landscape, this is one. There is not a day when it could not have its own storm christening ceremony.

Midway through the second half, Cork, mainly as a result of a brave goal by Tim O’Mahony, led on a scoreline of 1-14 to 1-13. Then Robbie O’Flynn had one of those moments where the red card was shown, without a word of disapproval from the defence lawyers. When you hear a media commentator say “we all know that Robbie O’Flynn is not a dirty player”, then you know that the colour is not in question.

Robbie O'Flynn is sent off by referee Fergal Horgan against Galway. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Robbie O'Flynn is sent off by referee Fergal Horgan against Galway. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Two and a half minutes later, Brian Concannon raised a green for the maroon army. It was show and Allianz over.

Of course, the defeat had the glass half empty brigade reaching for the mobiles and whatever else they use to inform the world, that in essence, nothing had changed, since the capitulation to Kilkenny in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final.

Indeed, some were of the opinion that if anything, this version of Cork senior hurling had stepped into regression-mode. Normally, if a team is viewed by some as having the ability to climb most of the way up the mountain, but lacking the finishing touch to reach the top, they will point to either a defensive flaw or an attacking malfunction.

If you take the Mayo team, that entertained us and broke their supporters’ hearts over the past decade, most informed commentators will point to the fact that defensively they were ok, but lacked go to operators in their full-forward line. When you think of the present Kerry team, notice how many times you will be reminded that their defence is their Achilles heel.

However, the knife is sharpened on both sides, when discussing the chances of Rebel hurling success for 2020. The readings from the defensive statistical department do not make pretty reading, particularly in relation to a large number of points conceded.

In the five matches, they have played in this year’s league, they had 110 points registered against them, but maybe we should mention that they conceded just five goals.

At the other end of the pitch, the recordings from the attacking department provides a return of 11 goals and 90 points. Surely, the number of goals scored is a healthy enough return, but as they say, the devil is in the detail and to that end, the fact that the majority of the scoring comes from the sticks of Patrick Horgan or Shane Kingston.

The critics will use this to point to the lack of scores from others, in the attacking setup.

Any positives? Well you have to be impressed with the performance of Shane Kingston. Between Fitzgibbon Cup performances with UCC, which he carried on to the Cork team, this young man could yet have a big influence on Cork’s season.

His speed and obvious courage will ensure some grief for members of the opposition union.

Not sure what the story with Alan Cadogan is. He would add real value, but his visits to the infirmary are all too frequent.

Still on the positive, the return of Colm Spillane has to be viewed as an entry in the good news section. Looking in the rearview mirror may not be of much use, at this time, and remember in just over nine weeks, championship 2020 will get in motion, with an opening match against Limerick, a county that Cork has a relatively good record against.

The fact that the game will be played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh should be another plus.

I presume that you don’t need reminding that the first objective, of the round-robin Munster championship, is to finish in the top three, thereby qualifying for the knockout stages of the All-Ireland championship.

Last year if you remember, with the wheels coming off the Waterford train, it was a case of three from four, by the way, the other county to lose out was Clare. Both of these two counties have new management teams, in place, which may provide them with some momentum.

Right now, if you were to wander into your local turf accountant and request a view of the odds on Cork getting one of those top three spots, the odds may not look very favourable. For those of you, who believe that home venue confers some advantage, as mentioned earlier, Cork will play Limerick in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, with Clare also being visitors.

That means Tipperary in Semple Stadium and Waterford in Walsh Park. It will be one interesting five-week period, between May 10 and June 14.

Cork's Colm Spillane and Limerick's Graeme Mulcahy battle earlier this season. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Cork's Colm Spillane and Limerick's Graeme Mulcahy battle earlier this season. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

While the hurlers were saying their goodbyes in Salthill, the county football team secured another victory, that more than likely will guarantee them promotion, ensuring they will not enter the Tier 2 world of the newly unveiled Tailteann Cup. All along, the column had mixed views about this competition, possibly influenced by the fact that Cork could very well have been a participant.

Now that the Rebel big ball army will sail in the Sam Maguire cruiser, I think that this competition has some serious merit. And with the promise that both semi-finals and final, will be played in Croke Park and televised, is a welcome boost.

Of course, it remains to be seen, how the participating counties will buy-in, but let us be honest, for many, the road to Sam was seriously potholed. By all accounts, Cork’s win against Derry wasn’t high octane, but still the objective was achieved.

We mentioned somewhat earlier about the attaching of Alan Cadogan to injury, well here we have another Douglas operator, and I will have to be honest, I think I would only be able to watch Sean Powter with one eye half-closed.

The fact that he has played for a sizeable portion of the majority of the games thus far, is a major positive. He was  Man of the Match on Sunday. Let us hope that we can say the same about this talented young man on many Sundays to come.

CONTACT: paudie.palmer@hotmail.com or @paudiep.

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