Darragh Fitzgibbon in full flow through the middle makes the Cork hurlers tick

Darragh Fitzgibbon in full flow through the middle makes the Cork hurlers tick
Darragh Fitzgibbon of Cork in action against Jerome Cahill of Tipperary. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

IN the aftermath of the loss to Waterford in Walsh Park, even though it was only a point dividing the teams, a lot of criticism was pointed in Cork’s direction.

A lot of it was probably over the top considering that it was the first competitive game of the season.

Cork had lost to Limerick too in the Munster League final so the game against Tipperary, the first in Páirc Uí Chaoimh for nearly a year, took on a lot more significance.

Factor in too that Tipp had come down here twice last season and didn’t encounter much trouble in securing two wins.

So, taking those things into account it was important to put a stop to those losing sequences.

And, full marks to to Kieran Kingston’s men, they dug in deep as much as you can do in the league at this time of the year and came out with the result.

Kingston, quite rightly, was delighted with the result but, at the same time, played it down, stressing that losing in Waterford didn’t make the team a bad one and that winning against Tipperary didn’t make it a brilliant one.

Quite correct, but the Cork manager had plenty of positives to take from the game that had just concluded.

Coming out on the right side of what was for this juncture in the year a fairly compelling encounter was important.

Cork had lost too many similar type games in recent times.

The work-rate of the team as a unit was significantly up on the previous week, the team coped well with the adjustments that had to be made after the departure through injury to Tim O’Mahony and Aidan Walsh.

Both, by the way, had started the game well, but their replacements, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Mark Coleman fitted seamlessly into the team, the Charleville player one of the outstanding players during the time that he spent on the pitch.

This fellow is heavily immersed in the Fitzgibbon Cup with UCC as well, but his work-rate on Saturday night was a joy to behold.

It’s very possible that as time moves on this fellow could become one of the great Cork hurlers.

Cork started Patrick Collins in goal and it’s only right and proper that he gets adequate game time in the league.

Everybody is fully aware of his capabilities and he embellished his status as a custodian of real quality here.

The save that he made before Tipperary were subsequently awarded a penalty was absolutely first class.

And as the game hung in the balance in the closing minutes after the unfortunate injury to ‘Bubbles’ Dwyer he made some big stops too.

In front of him, Robert Downey produced another fine performance in a full-back line that performed very well, solid rather than spectacular. Where the Glen man Downey is concerned, it’s a case of so far, so good.

Up front, the standout performance surely came from Robbie O’Flynn. Although still in the infancy of his inter-county career, the Erin’s Own clubman has been knocking around for a bit now and this is a big season for him in terms of trying to make the starting six forwards.

He got an opportunity on Saturday and took it with both hands, scoring a cracking goal, setting up another and firing over three fine points.

On that evidence and if that type of form was to be repeated he’s in the mix big time.

It was hugely encouraging too to have Alan Cadogan performing so well. On his day this fellow is one of the country’s top forwards, but injury has seriously curtailed him in recent times. Having a fit Alan Cadogan performing at the level he’s so capable of will be a huge asset to this Cork attack.

Alan Cadogan of Cork is tackled by Seán O'Brien of Tipperary. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Alan Cadogan of Cork is tackled by Seán O'Brien of Tipperary. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

In every league encounter there will be plenty of positives and negatives, but here the positives, from a Cork viewpoint, outweighed anything else.

But again league encounters have to be put into perspective and in the after- match press conference both Kieran Kingston and Liam Sheedy played things down as much as they could.

The league does not matter where Sheedy is concerned, the only thing that does is trying to put back-to-back All-Ireland victories together for the first time in the Premier County since the 1960s.

He has what you’d term more big guns to come back than Cork have and when they are all back they are going to be some team again.

They are still justifiably ahead of Cork in the pecking order, but the gap which was between the teams in head- to-head contests last season is certainly not going to be as great this time.

Let’s face it, the league result last season between the two counties was embarrassing, 1-29 to 1-16 and that could have been 1-36 or 1-37.

So, it was important to put that result to bed and manufacture something far more positive.

Cork will have another two league points on the board after the trip to Westmeath next Sunday week and then will come two games that will tell us a lot more against a Limerick team that’s making big statements already and then into Salthill for what is always an acid test.

Kingston and his selectors may or may not want to go all out to win the league, but what they do want is to put down a few markers along the way.

The players certainly did that for them on Saturday night and the performance was positive insofar as attitude, workrate, individual returns, and scoring were concerned.

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