Forget about the World Cup, Cork hurling is box office again

Forget about the World Cup, Cork hurling is box office again
Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash talks to team mates before the game. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

YOU can keep your World Cup and your Love Island.

There's nothing wrong with a nifty Luka Modric pass and a snaky Neymar dive, or bikinis and beach-ready abs for that matter. It's just there hasn't been any need for distractions this summer.

The sun blazing in the sky and Cork hurling is finally back at its best. What else would you want to do doing apart from pucking a sliotar around or watching Rebel sides rip it up?

Deadpool 2 and Jurassic World are out for weeks now but this has been such an intoxicating hurling season a trip to the cinema would seem a waste. Ryan Reynolds and Chris Pratt are pretty cool but can they simply can't match a soaring Mark Coleman sideline, a Darragh Fitzgibbon solo run or Seamus Harnedy ducking a tackle before firing to the net.

Seamus Harnedy scores a goal past Clare's goalkeeper Donal Tuohy. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Seamus Harnedy scores a goal past Clare's goalkeeper Donal Tuohy. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

 Give me Leeside over Hollywood any day.

Two years ago though, when the Rebels were labouring through a misfiring sweeper system on a suitably gloomy and wet Semple Stadium and then ended up out of the championship before the quarter-final stage after a tame loss to Wexford, there was little hope of a revival. Cork were at the bottom of the pile in Munster with an underage development squad structure that simply wasn't producing winning teams and a lack of confidence across every level.

Five Munsters titles in the two seasons since, as well an U17 All-Ireland and an appearance in a minor final has changed all that. The talent had been bubbling to the surface in recent years but Cork needed to break the losing cycle and find its mojo again.

Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Since 2016 Cork have ended a number of hoodoos. They have won a first minor crown in nine years and made their first All-Ireland appearance at the grade in a decade.

Last Wednesday night with a surprisingly dominant display against great rivals Tipp they bridged an 11-year gap to a provincial U21 success. The U17 All-Ireland last August was the county's first, apart from intermediate, since 2005.

While the seniors have annexed three of the last five Munsters, by defeating Clare in Thurles they retained the trophy for the first time since '05-'06. The comeback that afternoon, led by Harnedy and Patrick Horgan's leadership and attacking brio was terrific. There's a fine line between arrogance and delusion but you'd have to be massively confident about the future. 

Granted we may yet be left gutted if the senior and U21 teams fall short in their All-Ireland semi-finals, but there are enough natural hurlers and that palpable buzz about the great game again on Leeside to survive any setbacks.

Darragh Fitzgibbon and U21 captain Shane Kingston after defeating Tipp. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Darragh Fitzgibbon and U21 captain Shane Kingston after defeating Tipp. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The next three weeks, with Cork out of action, are absolutely critical. Munster champions haven't fared well in the last four in the modern era and the Rebels' record at Croker is poor. Some of the performances against the likes of Kilkenny and Tipp have been abject, leaving those who travelled in great numbers to Jones Road with little or nothing to shout about.

Going back to 2008, Cork have lost five of the six semi-finals they've been in and in 2013 they got the benefit from a harsh red card against Dublin.

Here's a scary stat. Joe Canning has only lost once to a Cork team in championship and that was in his 2008 debut season.

There's no guarantee Cork will meet Galway but to land Liam McCarthy, they'll probably have to.

Tim O’Mahony takes on Killian O’Dwyer in the U21 Munster final. Picture:  Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Tim O’Mahony takes on Killian O’Dwyer in the U21 Munster final. Picture:  Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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