SO at the end of the round-robin stage of the Allianz National Hurling League, the stats don’t read too good for the Rebel hurlers.
In stark terms, it’s played five and lost four. Throw in the Munster Senior League and that stat becomes played eight and lost seven. And with a relegation game to come next weekend it certainly doesn’t bode well heading into the Munster championship in a couple of weeks.
Cast your mind back a year and Cork won the Munster League and championship, before finally losing out in the All-Ireland semi-final. Go back a year further and results in the Munster League were similar to this year.
But in the overall context, these results don’t really matter a huge amount. Of course, any managers and players like to win all their games — winning, they say, is a habit and one that all are happier doing than losing.
Last year the Munster League unearthed a few players they added to the squad and it gave the likes of Darragh Fitzgibbon and Mark Coleman to show what they are about and gain valuable experience before the league proper. They are now firmly established as regulars in the side and should be for many years to come.
No doubt manager John Meyler was hoping that the same would happen this year and in that regard, he can take several positives out of the Munster League.
Sean O’Donoghue has been a find and is certainly one to watch and looks like he has the potential to be a regular in the side going forward. He is cool and calm under pressure and seems to have all the attributes to become another first choice in defence.
Starting at centre-back against Tipperary was Tim O’Mahony, who would be better known in the last few years as a forward for his club, Newtown. He has grown into this role, again using both these leagues to gain valuable experience in this position.
The custodian of the number six shirt last year was Mark Ellis and he was absent again yesterday through injury and it shows that now it’s necessary to almost have a second player up to the mark in every position.
Meyler is on record as saying that with the quick turnaround in Munster championship games this season, it’s more or less necessary to have this. In a lot of ways, the injury gods haven’t been too kind to John this season and he has yet to be in a position to field a full-strength side in any of the games.
At various stages throughout the National League, there have been players injured, possibly preventing John from fielding his preferred championship side.
That said, the league started will with a hard-fought and gutsy win over Kilkenny. That night they fought for every ball as if their lives depended on it and were deserving winners of a pulsating game.
After that, Meyler has had injury after injury, with the likes of Coleman, Alan Cadogan, Ellis, and Conor Lehane, to name a few, all injured.
Damien Cahalane, who had a great year last year, has been a long-term absentee as well and Eoin Cadogan was another on the missing list yesterday. On the plus front, Cahalane was on the bench yesterday and, though he didn’t feature, at least he’s back in training — that can only be good for Cork.
Looking at yesterday’s encounter, in many ways it was a strange game. There was little or no atmosphere, with a very small Cork crowd present.
It was far from championship pace and even though Cork lost, they were in contention right up to the end and finished the stronger of the two sides, scoring the last four points.
There were a number of positives for the Rebels with the likes of Alan Cadogan, Conor Lehane, O’Mahony, and Coleman working hard all through.
However, they won’t have been happy with their return from puckouts and even though Nash might have found his desired player, they were often bundled over the sideline or disposed too easily.
Others were intercepted too easily and returned with interest. Have no doubt: This will be looked at ahead of next Sunday, not to mind the championship.
Probably the biggest talking point from yesterday was the Tipperary wides, 20 in total. Hitting even half of them, and a lot were easy scoring chances, and it would have been a far more comprehensive win for the Tipp side.
Again something Cork will be well aware of before they face Waterford in the relegation game next Sunday, a game they are going into with momentum, having won their last two games — one of them a win over Cork. After the game yesterday, Meyler was happy with a lot of Cork’s play, citing the Tipp goal as a key moment that turned the game in their favour.
For now his attention can only be on one game and that’s the clash with Waterford next Sunday in the relegation play-off. The second-last time we were in this position we went down, but later that year we were one puck away from winning the All-Ireland final. One can only wonder will history repeat itself.