With three games in 13 days Cork boss Meyler may look to freshen up the team 

With three games in 13 days Cork boss Meyler may look to freshen up the team 
Bill Cooper clears past David Reidy of Clare. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

JOHN MEYLER was, for obvious reasons, keeping a lid on things in the aftermath of the events at Pairc Ui Chaoimh last Sunday.

But deep down he must have been delighted with Cork’s performance while at the same time his very experienced hurling head was telling him that there’s plenty to work on going forward.

Cork manager John Meyler. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cork manager John Meyler. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

And that’s exactly the place you want to be in after the first game of such a demanding schedule, you come away with the two precious points that were on offer and in the knowledge that the team and the squad has the potential to improve on the performance.

In past Munster championship victories you had time to reflect on them, two, maybe three weeks but with the unprecedented schedule of the new format, you certainly won’t be resting on your laurels.

In the lead-up to last Sunday’s game, the importance of securing victory in your home games could not have been emphasised enough. That was the priority for Cork last Sunday and they delivered accordingly with what was ultimately a fine victory.

You could not really have asked for much more, a return of 2-23 was a fine innings and a five-point difference between the sides could have plenty of significance down the line if points difference came into play. So that last-gasp goal from Seamus Harnedy might well be worth its weight in goal come the middle of June.

However, let’s still keep things in perspective because Clare did have chances, some very good ones in the first-half but they just did not take them. And when that happens, nine times out of 10 the price you pay can be a very heavy one.

Clare could have had a few goals but too often they broke down before they could apply the finishing touch, the type of finish that is required at this level of the game.

When Tony Kelly did manage to secure one in the 61st minute there was every chance that they might get away with their earlier failings but Cork always had the capacity to respond and to prevent them from getting ahead on the board.

Clare led for just six minutes of the game, the opening six but thereafter it was either level or Cork were ahead.

Much of that was down to the tight operation that they ran at the back, particularly the full-back line.

The marking and the tackling from Sean O’Donoghue, Damien Cahalane and Colm Spillane was very good and there was one standout moment for this observer in the first-half when O’Donoghue put in a great hook on Conor McGrath.

There is a tough nut dimension to this Cork full-back line now and when you consider that Eoin Cadogan is very much in the equation too, that department certainly gives cause for optimism.

Tipperary wouldn’t mind that kind of settlement in their 2, 3 and 4 positions.

Outside, Mark Coleman took up from where he left off last season and he hardly put a foot wrong last Sunday.

Darragh Fitzgibbon was equally impressive further out and what you have now is that the younger brigade brought in last season is becoming stronger and wiser.

Add in Sean O’Donoghue and Robbie O’Flynn from this early part of the season and what you have is a much younger brigade coming more and more to the forefront giving the team a perfect age balance.

You cannot get too carried away, of course, because things can change dramatically from one week to the next and are likely to do so over the coming weeks.

But, as John Meyler pointed out, you immediately park one bus and get on the other and in this case, it’s now on to the one that takes you to Thurles.

With the result of the Tipp, Limerick game made known before Cork started against Clare there was the suggestion that a Cork loss would make next Sunday’s tie effectively a knockout encounter.

Not fully but the significance of the game now for Tipp cannot be overstated enough.

Depending on a lot of factors, results, points difference, etc, four points might be enough to get you through and be one of the three teams that will enter the All-Ireland equation but the pressure is very much on Tipp now next Sunday as it will be on Clare at Cusack Park against Waterford.

The big question now facing the Cork management is, do you change a winning team?

There will be one enforced change because of Robbie O’Flynn’s injury and Tim O’Mahony will be a contender there.

Meyler and his selectors will carefully consider their options during the week.

In the pre-season talks, the manager was stressing that teams would have to change from one week to the next because of the time frame involved. Cork are out again the following Saturday night against Limerick who will be coming into that game much fresher because they are idle next weekend.

That could be a factor in one or two decisions that will have to be made next Sunday.

Do you make a few changes to freshen it up again or do you retain the status quo? Cork will be mindful too that by putting Tipp away next Sunday they might just be ending their chances of progressing outside Munster.

The likelihood is that we’ll see a change or two on the Cork team, certainly not too many because a win over Tipp would be a huge psychological boost going into the last two games against Limerick and Waterford.

Cork, right now, are in a good enough place, Tipp are not and Michael Ryan’s reaction to the loss was mystifying. Not talking to the press never solved anything.

Anyway, in the first-half last Sunday Harnedy and Lehane contributed just two points between them but by the end of the game, they shared 2-4, 1-2 apiece, all from play.

So, it was very much a case of the positives outweighing any negatives on this opening day.

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