The John Horgan column: League was a disappointment for Cork hurling fans

The John Horgan column: League was a disappointment for Cork hurling fans
Mark Coleman and Sean O'Leary Hayes of Cork in action against Brian Concannon of Galway at Salthill. Picture: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile

THERE’S only one way to put it, it has not been a productive national hurling league campaign for the Cork hurlers.

Good days at the office have been few and far between, just one victory of what you could describe as being of any great significance against Tipperary.

There was the win over Westmeath as well but, with respect to the Lake County, you would not be shouting from the rooftops about that.

And that was a game that became a struggle for Cork to win.

Cork’s league record going back over 20 years now has been pretty dismal and not since 1998 was the full distance travelled, the victory that year proving to be a forerunner for the McCarthy Cup success a year later.

Since then only Wexford outside the leading contenders have failed to land the secondary prize, Kilkenny, Dublin, Clare, Waterford, Tipperary, Galway, and Limerick all tasting success.

The Munster championship and the All-Ireland have always been prioritised by Cork through various team managers but surely trying to win the league wouldn’t do any harm either.

Over the past three years Cork have failed to reach the knockout stages giving them a 10 or 11 week break before the championship swings into action.

Three of their four opponents in the Munster championship — Limerick, Clare and Waterford — are through to the knockout stages this time and they will be joined by Tipperary next Sunday if the All-Ireland champions overcome Galway.

That gives them at least one extra game in the league and a proper match in terms of preparation for the minefield that will have to be negotiated in the province.

A glance at the league table which for Cork is now complete shows that they scored more goals, 11 in total.

That’s one of the few positives to take from the series, goals were scored in every game, three against Waterford, two against Tipperary, three against Westmeath, two against Limerick and just the one against Galway.

In recent years raising green flags has been a problem so that corner was turned this time.

However, that’s where the good news ends because the over dependency on Patrick Horgan to post scores from placed balls was highlighted again.

In fact the Cork captain nailed a total of 3-47 from placed balls, frees, penalties and 65s over the course of the campaign.

Across five league games over the past number of weeks, Cork scored a grand total of 11-90 with Horgan accounting for 47% of those scores.

But, of course, that’s nothing new, Cork have been overly dependent on him for too long now and that was tellingly illustrated in the All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Kilkenny last season when he contributed 3-10.

People are probably fed up at this stage of being told that the Cork attack as a unit is not contributing nearly enough.

That needs to change in the championship, the burden of scoring responsibility has to be shared by a greater number of players The form of a few players has not been at the standard with which made them standout contributors in the past and that needs to be regained.

Some good goals were scored in the past few weeks, with Shane Kingston firing home three of them and it must be said that his league campaign has been very good.

Aidan Walsh took his goal against Limerick very well while last Sunday Tim O’Mahony came up the field to drill home a cracker.

In the game against Tipperary, Robbie O’Flynn excelled with a return of 1-3 but that overall consistency from the attack has not been there.

Cork are going too long too in games without scoring at all and that was the case again last Sunday in Salthill during the final 15 or so minutes when the game was still there for the taking.

Too many wides were registered in some games and too many frees were conceded in others.

Cork’s starting six forwards last Sunday contributed just 0-4 from play and that has been a problem in other games too.

Simply put, there needs to be more of a penetrative dimension forthcoming from the Cork forwards although Alan Cadogan’s absence has been felt, one of the best forwards in the country.

Where the league is concerned too, it’s all about getting in fresh material to challenge the more established players, having a greater depth of resources going into the championship.

The Cork team ahead of the loss to Galway last weekend. Picture: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile
The Cork team ahead of the loss to Galway last weekend. Picture: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile

Has that been enough of the case? Hard to say really, Patrick Collins did nothing wrong between the sticks, Sean O’Leary-Hayes has been doing well too and you had Robbie O’Flynn in great form against Tipp and showing what he can do.

Cork could have done with another game or maybe two in this league for the management to make a greater assessment.

Ten or 11 weeks will now pass before Limerick arrive on Leeside in what could be a make or break game for Cork’s hurling year.

There will be a challenge game here and there and there will be an opportunity to get a lot done on the training ground.

Behind close doors there needs plenty of A V B games with no holds barred.

The league is done now and we can only look on at how the opposition will perform in the next couple of weeks.

The league will become a footnote very quickly once the championship begins but lessons have to be learned from it. At this point in time there’s a lot of work ahead.

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