A BITTERLY disappointing defeat for Cork hurlers left frustrated supporters grasping for positives.
Our backs are very much to the wall now with a daunting trip to face the All-Ireland champions Limerick next weekend.
Home advantage proved massive in last year’s competition, so the Rebels need to regroup quickly for a trip to the Gaelic Grounds.
After a nervy start, Cork went six points behind with Seamus Callanan doing wreck at full-forward.
To be fair, Cork weathered the storm and only trailed Tipperary by a single point at the break. But the Premier always looked hungrier and more physically imposing.
A Seamus Harnedy goal gave Rebel supporters hope, but Tipperary tacked on a few late scores.
In truth, this Cork performance was riddled with mistakes which handed Tipperary the bragging rights in this opening round of the Munster Championship.
Former Cork star Mick Malone holds minor, U21 (four consecutive years) and two senior All-Ireland medals.
The former Éire Óg star believes it’s time for cool heads and insists the players are capable of turning things around.
“To start on a positive, I think the game will really stand to us for Limerick next week,” Mick Malone said.
“Now we were beaten fair and square by Tipperary but we didn’t help ourselves with the amount of mistakes we made. You won’t win matches at this level by playing poorly.
“But I wasn’t surprised with the result, and Liam Sheedy was repaid for his loyalty to the older lads. It was amazing that no player from their U21 team that won the All-Ireland against Cork made the starting 15.
“Our forwards looked afraid to take on their opponents. They are just lacking a bit of confidence — but there are very fine margins between defeat and victory.
“But we are well capable of turning things around. Limerick are entitled to be favourites for the All-Ireland, but we are still capable of going up there and winning this match.
“We have one more home game against Waterford, and it’ll probably go down to the Clare game in Ennis.”
The game of hurling has evolved over the years but the physical sides are really dominating — even looking at the tackles in the Dublin-Kilkenny game on Saturday night. Cork are certainly lacking that power and aggression as well as ball-winners.
The Maher brothers dominated our half-forward line from start to finish. They gave away a number of frees but they bullied us out of it.
It’s something that Malone feels needs to be looked at.
“We are now gone 14 years without an All-Ireland win.
“We are persisting with the running game a bit longer than that. We won a couple of All-Irelands at the start of the time, but our hurling is not direct enough, plain and simple.
“The type of player that is being picked is a player that can run with the ball.
“Now our new corner-back Niall O’Leary was a massive find and he looks a proper hurler to be honest with you.
“He looked confident and had a go. He committed to everything and made a couple of mistakes along the way which every player does. But he looked like a proper Cork hurler and he will learn so much as he goes along.“
While our defence improved as the game went on, our forwards struggled for long periods of the game. Patrick Horgan was magnificent and he kept Cork in this game to be fair.
His over the shoulder point in the second half was worth the entrance fee alone. But a number of our forwards just seem to be lacking confidence right now.
“Confidence is everything in hurling or any sport at the top level. We haven’t won an All-Ireland in 14 years. We have lost so many underage championships. Confidence was a hallmark of all Cork teams over the years, but that is lacking at the moment.
“We lost a few crucial calls to the referee as well but I was surprised our management didn’t remonstrate with the referee more.
“Our players just need to go out there and express themselves. Quicker, slicker hurling up front is required. We have too many fellas gathering possession and looking for a pass instead of going for a score themselves."
“The biggest critics of Cork hurling over the last decade would say we are not robust enough and we can’t win our own puck-outs. Unfortunately, there was plenty of evidence of that on Sunday.
“If you go out lacking confidence an opponent will sense that. Tipperary looked so focused and we were looking over our shoulders a little bit in the opening quarter. We were always playing catch-up. We have to go out believing that we’re capable of winning every game.
“Too many of our forwards were just afraid to go for it.
“If every one of our half-forward line could get three points... We were trying to catch everything instead of batting down some of the balls.
“Patrick Horgan gave an exhibition, and that score he got in the second half was exceptional.
“He won his own ball, knew where the posts were and converted his chance. We have a way too much messing up front. We need to go away more direct but I expect a big reaction from Cork next Sunday.”