Great news for Rebels: Brian Hurley is heading back to his best form

Great news for Rebels: Brian Hurley is heading back to his best form
Brian Hurley turns away from Sean O'Dea. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

ALL week we’d been hearing about the form of Brian Hurley.

That he was flying in training and matches, that there were real signs of a return to the explosiveness of before after three seasons of disruption from injury and a time where it looked more likely he’d never again kick a football than do this.

We scribbled his name at the top of the page five minutes before the throw-in on Saturday evening and waited to be convinced, deciding to keep a particularly close eye on this potential comeback. Seán O’Dea the Limerick number three surely had the same plan. We didn’t have long to wait.

Around three minutes in, Ruairí Deane angled a pass across himself bouncing to the right of goal to put Hurley one-v-one with no cover. Hurley spotted the danger immediately and as he took possession, did a rapid change of direction and exploded away from the full-back into the space on the far side, an acceleration of purpose that turned a situation into a goal chance in one movement.

He cut back onto his left foot and blasted low to the net past the ’keeper.

Oh, interesting.

A moment later, Deane again had possession centrally and this time Hurley moved into the space left of goal behind his man. Deane found him with a raking pass that landed just the other side of the Limerick number three and with Hurley on the half-turn, already a goal chance before he’d even moved with the ball.

Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

You could more or less see the net shaking before Hurley even took a step. He didn’t disappoint with a rasper on his right foot this time, again low and unstoppable. Five minutes in, Brian Hurley with two goals from two touches and honestly, it felt like the game was done.

Oh, very interesting.

Let’s assume Kerry won’t be quite so open with their marking but it was hard not to get a little excited about this development.

Hurley didn’t score again but he didn’t really need to as Cork had complete control of this, apart from the very first play of the game where Limerick should have scored a goal, everywhere on the field. They moved the ball really well in that first half especially, knocked up 3-8 with some lovely flowing football of speed and fluency, overwhelming Limerick with the pace of their running.

Ruairí Deane was unstoppable at number eleven, owning the central area with complete power and running through the tackles of a Limerick defence that simply couldn’t take the ball off him. Almost every score seemed to have Deane involved for a time.

He kick-passed assists for Hurley’s two goals. He scored his own goal shortly afterwards, taking the ball through tackles and bodies with the assurance and purpose that he was able to do whatever he wanted and Limerick really couldn’t do anything about it.

Again you could just see he wanted a goal from way out and that it was going to happen and there were passages of play where Deane looked like a senior player dropped into an U16 game, playing with that kind of physical advantage. He ran down the middle to set up Kerrigan and Mark Collins for scores. He didn’t stop running all night.

Mark Collins kicks a point.Picture: Larry Cummins.
Mark Collins kicks a point.Picture: Larry Cummins.

It’s not too difficult to know the two names with asterisks on Peter Keane’s notebook for the next few weeks.

If it was one of those games that was so one-sided it was difficult to read too much into long-term, so we won’t declare a comeback just yet. It won’t matter to Cork though as honestly they needed this kind of blow-out where everything worked.

Eoghan McSweeney came in and again looked a real find at half-forward, kicked three points and set up scores with a willingness to kick the ball to the inside-forward line. Mark Collins won ball, linked play and kicked some snappy points from his position inside with Brian Hurley.

Mattie Taylor was picked out by Colm Cooper on the radio and his influence with the ball was constant here, driving forward with intent and sniping two points.

The defence wasn’t tested but they were aggressive in attacking ball when they needed to be and won most of any fifty-fifty battles. Flahive and Clancy both won balls from behind their men. Ian Maguire and Killian O’Hanlon worked and worked, Maguire chased a blockdown from way-way back at a meaningless time of the game but it sent a message.

Limerick's Tommie Childs and Killian O'Hanlon of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Limerick's Tommie Childs and Killian O'Hanlon of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

It might have been a walkover but only because Cork had made it so with more conviction and positivity on the ball than we’ve seen in some time. They attacked with tempo, never really let up until the game was over and just generally showed the sort of mentality everyone (including themselves) had been wanting.

Cork were better footballers and they made it matter. Confidence levels ought to be as high as they’ve been to attack the Munster final. Kerry are a totally different level but Cork might make it interesting with this kind of form and attitude.

And we can confirm Brian Hurley is back.

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