THE Cork hurling faithful are concerned after last weekend’s defeat to Tipp and with good reason.
The county’s prospects of a long, hot summer have decreased dramatically since the home loss. Next, Cork have to travel to the Gaelic Grounds, this Sunday, and to Ennis for the last game of the round-robin series. After two Munster titles in a row, they could now struggle to make it past June 15.
Limerick might be All-Ireland and league champions, but they’re not looking too far down the road either, as All-Star corner-back, Sean Finn, explained at the Patrick Bourke Menswear launch.
His biggest concern, ahead of a gruelling provincial campaign, is “not coming out of Munster, to be honest”.
“It is going to be mad competitive again,” he said. “Technically, there’s eight points up for grabs and you need to grab as many of them you can, even with draws. That’s all we’ll be thinking about, facing Cork the first day.”
The 23-year-old says a minimum of two wins will be required to at least make the knockout phase. The Shannonsiders came third in Munster, on five points, in 2018, beating Waterford and Tipp, drawing with Cork, and losing to Clare.
“I reckon you’re likely to get through with six or even five points. You have to win two of your games, at least, and then see what else happens.
“It’s so competitive, you can’t be concentrating on the first or the third or the last game. It’s a matter of taking every single game as it comes and getting the most you can out of each one. If you get the one point for a draw, you’ll take that, because look at last year: those draws really mattered!
“Technically, there’s eight points up for grabs and you take it game for game. All we’re looking at is the Cork game and the thought of grabbing those two points. Obviously, we had some amazing clashes with them last year, so that’s a really, really tough one to start with.”
Finn believes last year’s gripping Munster championship joust at Páirc Uí Chaoimh was the key game in their season.
“If we hadn’t got that hard-fought draw against Cork, things could have been very different. That was a huge game for us, especially losing Declan (Hannon, injured) after 10 minutes and Aaron (Gillane, red card) after 20, and down there as well.
“It’s a fabulous place to play a game; it was a Saturday evening game, amazing weather and a pure cauldron.
“That was a big turning point for us, one of our biggest results. Initially, you’d think, ‘oh, we only got a draw’, but when we analysed it, we were so happy coming out of there.”
John Kiely’s charges also had some money in the bank from a league run that promoted them from Division 1B, when they came from behind to pip Galway and dish out a big beating to Offaly.
“In recent years, we’d have struggled against Offaly and they’d always have considered themselves capable of beating us. They’d come off a good result against Dublin, but we went down and beat them by 17 points and I think that was a shift in the culture or mindset of the team.”
The Bruff native dabbled in rugby and soccer (his favourite sport when younger), but was always destined to be a hurler, as his father, Brian, previously pulled on the green geansaí. Finn did an excellent job against Cork’s star-studded attack in last summer’s epic All-Ireland semi-final.
An athletic corner-back, he filled in at number three in the spring, when Mike Casey was injured.
“The way the game has gone, essentially, it’s three corner-backs inside there now, because there’s so much movement all the time, so it didn’t feel too much different.
“It really depends on who you’re playing against, too. Kilkenny play more traditionally than a lot of teams who play two inside, so it varies with every game.”
If in doubt, he can always turn to his father for a few tips.
“His best advice probably was to tell me, ‘you’ll make mistakes in games’. Players go into games worrying about making mistakes, but they’re going to happen; it’s a matter of how you deal with them and managing those anxieties before games.
“He knows when to say stuff or just small stuff. My mother also knows if I’m in bad form it’s usually about hurling! They’re both a great help to me.”