IN 2007, when there was the same, two-group, six-team format, the Cork hurlers topped Group A after five games, winning four and losing one.
The scoring tallies were 1-21 against Offaly, 0-12 in the defeat at Waterford, 1-10 against Down, 1-17 against Wexford, and 1-13 against Clare. That’s an average of 17 points per game.
By 2013, when Cork finished second-bottom of the more cut-throat Division 1A, they posted 0-26 against Tipperary, 1-12 against Waterford, 1-16 against Clare, 2-12 against Galway and the same in the final match, against Kilkenny, before notching 2-23 in losing the relegation play-off against Clare. Over the five regular games, they averaged 19.2 points per game, or 20.8 over the six.
In last year’s league, they scored 0-17 scored against Kilkenny and Wexford, 1-20 against Clare, 2-21 against Limerick, and 1-16 against Tipperary, an average of 20.6. While the sample is obviously smaller, so far, they have scored 3-17 in losing to Waterford — with 2-0 of that in the opening three minutes — and 2-24 against Tipperary. That makes for an average of 28 points per game, which will probably fall as the competition goes on, but is still inordinately high.
While Patrick Horgan being able to land a free from 90 metres is a superb skill —he would have had another only for direction, rather than length — it should be a once-a-season treat, not a once-a-game occurrence.
A heavier ball is something that Babs Keating has championed and it should be considered: scores have been devalued, because they are so much easier.
Players are likelier to attempt a long-range point, knowing that it has a good chance, whereas a heavier sliotar would lead to more balls inside to the full-forward line and more goals. And, let’s be honest, we all want to see more goals, don’t we?
Increasing the value of a goal to four points would be another possibility, but the corollary of that is that teams might be inclined to be more defensive, knowing that the concession of a goal would be more costly.
At least Cork are scoring goals, even if they didn’t contribute to a win against Waterford. Just two games in, they have scored five goals and let in just two, one a penalty. What was also pleasing about Saturday was that Cork won by scoring more goals and fewer points than their opponents.
It doesn’t sound like a huge achievement, but the last time this happened in the championship was 1991, against Waterford.
That’s not a misprint, though there were two examples of draws when Cork had more goals than the opposition: the 2013 All-Ireland final against Clare and the 2018 Munster round-robin against Limerick.
The win over Tipp was important, with only two teams from each group making the knockout stages, and with the All-Ireland champions and Westmeath already at a disadvantage, after two defeats. It is to the Lake County that Cork go next, where another likely victory should keep them in the mix.
The footballers are also off to a positive start, their win in Leitrim meaning they are the only Division 3 side to have won both of their opening games.
It’s the first time since 2015 that Cork have been victorious in each of the first two rounds and while that’s something to be expected in the third tier, Derry, another side tipped for promotion, have just one point after two rounds.
As with the first match, against Offaly, Cork took time to break Leitrim down, but they remained patient and there were some good goalscoring chances. A combination of good goalkeeping and poor shooting was costly, but at least they are getting into those positions and the opportunities will be converted as long as that keeps happening.
Next up is a home clash against Down, another team likely to be in the promotion mix. If Cork can pick up another victory, then they will surely be making an immediate return to Division 2.