Cork must build on their excellence against Tipp or fall to the Déise

Cork must build on their excellence against Tipp or fall to the Déise
Mark Coleman of Cork in action against John McGrath of Tipperary. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Éamonn Murphy 

Hurling

THE summer got a whole lot more interesting last weekend, which is exactly why Cork need to build on their excellence against Tipp and progress to the Munster final.

A wounded but still highly dangerous Premier side were joined in the qualifiers by Kilkenny after Wexford's stunning upset in the Leinster semi-final.

Kilkenny's Cillian Buckley closes down Conor McDonald of Wexford. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Kilkenny's Cillian Buckley closes down Conor McDonald of Wexford. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

A repeat of the memorable 2013 showdown when the Cats edged Tipp at Nowlan Park could be on the cards and an early slán leat to one of hurling's big two over the past decade.

With Dublin and Limerick lurking in the backdoor – both of whom are capable of at least one big do-or-die performance – the direct route to Croke Park is the best option for Cork. And if they do manage to beat the Déise this Sunday, at least one of last year's semi-finalists will be gone before the quarters which would completely freshen up the latter stages of the championship.

Tipp, Kilkenny, Galway and Waterford were in the last four in 2015 and 2016, and depending on Cork this weekend, we could yet see two of that three crash and burn before the quarters. On form Galway are still favourites for Leinster, while it's take your pick from Waterford, Cork or Clare, who are capable of upping a few gears after a patch enough display against Limerick, to capture the Munster crown.

Imagine the excitement and novelty value if we get Cork v Wexford and Galway against Clare or Waterford in the All-Ireland semis in August? Cool the jets you might say, it's only mid-June, and you'd be right.

For starters anyway, Cork have yet to prove they're capable of putting together back-to-back performances, not to mind wins. The defeat of Tipp was utterly thrilling. It was gung-ho hurling at its finest where the likes of Damian Cahalane and Conor Lehane answered their critics in style and the new generation, Mark Coleman most notably, announced their arrival with aplomb.

However, that was in a game where Cork were underdogs on the day and slated by many as championship no-hopers in the build-up. Tipp clearly had issues, given the subsequent axing of Cathal Barrett from the panel. The best set-up for an ambush since the War of Independence.

Sunday is completely different. Whatever about the bookies and the pundits, most locals fancy Cork's chances against the Déise.

Patrick Horgan gets the sliotar ahead of John O’Keeffe of Tipp. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Patrick Horgan gets the sliotar ahead of John O’Keeffe of Tipp. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

That's pure Cork – like a few creamy pints of Beamish followed by a feed from Lennox's – one victory and everyone is convinced we're back! Maybe we are. Certainly there is a positive energy around the place that only comes from a Cork hurling team moving well.

The minors have a vital showdown away to Tipp on Thursday June 29 in Semple Stadium which could send them into a first provincial final since 2008. With John Meyler a direct link from the seniors, the U21s have a great chance of beating Waterford on July 13. The prospect of three Cork sides in Munster hurling finals, after the U17s grabbed the crown already, is a real one.

Yet, Cork could quite easily lose the three semi-finals over the next four weeks. The record underage is appalling and the seniors have only made it to the Munster final three times in 10 season – 2010, 2013 and 2014.

The prospect of the minors and seniors in a Munster final double-header at the revamped Páirc Uí Chaoimh was an enticing one, but even if the stadium isn't ready the same scenario at a throbbing Semple Stadium would be sweet too.

First things first of course, how will Sunday go?

Nobody really knows because one, this is Cork we're talking about, and two, Waterford was quite erratic in the league. They clearly set out to do enough to avoid relegation and really only went hell for leather against Kilkenny and Tipp.

On the basis of the last two championships Waterford's time is here and they will have no fear whatsoever of Cork. If Stephen O'Keeffe, Tadhg de Burca, Austin Gleeson, Jamie Barron and Pauric Mahony are allowed dictate the tempo the momentum from last month will quickly grind to a halt.

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