I MET a few lads from Gortroe before the match in a very upbeat mood.
One of these was Art Supple, a singer from the Show Band era. I’m sure Art will be singing a few songs after yesterday’s performance, as will many Cork people.
This was a very sweet victory for Cork. A lot of people had written them off this year, but this scribe wasn’t one of them.
You know how much it meant to Cork witnessing the scenes after the game. The singing of ‘the Banks’ and the sea of red and white on the pitch was enough to make Corkonians homesick, even the ones that were at home.
I’m going to start first with regard to Kieran Kingston and the decisions he made this year, starting with his own management team. He made a few big calls here, namely getting John Meyler to come on board as a selector. John’s imprint was evident as he has vast experience at inter-county level over a number of years, and a cool head on the sideline which is what is needed on big match days.
But I think the biggest call he made, and a very correct one in my opinion, was appointing Pat Ryan as coach of the team. Pat was a good player himself and definitely has improved Cork out of all measure this year.
He is a very unassuming man, and not shouting from the rooftops. He just gets on with the job and improving the skill level of each and every one of the players. Along with the Rock and Pat Hartnett, they have had a massive influence on this team, which is apparent every time they take to the field.
I also have to mention here the superb fitness and condition of their players especially their quick movement, in both their thinking and their feet — that is down to Declan O’Sullivan, the physical trainer.
A sign of any good manager is the people he surrounds himself with, and Kieran has surrounded himself with top class people, but most importantly, he has surrounded himself with top class players and leaders.
Now, to the game itself — Cork started very well, especially Alan Cadogan, who had one of his best days in the Cork jersey. It did not matter how the ball came to him, or whenever it came, which was often, he was on fire.
He was skinning Oisin O’Brien and scoring at will, so much so, that his marker was called ashore in the first half. Rarely, have I seen Alan being so dominant.
Mind you, the rest of the Cork forwards weren’t showing much, except for Patrick Horgan. He was showing well for the ball, and his free taking was immaculate.
He is now Cork’s leading scorer in championship hurling, taking over from the maestro himself, Christy Ring — well-deserved.
But getting scores is not possible without the supply coming from out the field, starting with Anthony Nash, the keeper. His puck-outs were excellent again, even though I think he should go long with more of them, because every time he did, it caused problems for the Clare defence.
Cork’s defence were supplying good ball to the forwards especially Mark Coleman - what a brilliant player for a lad so young, and he can score also as proved by his two points, one a brilliant sideline. If there is a better young player in Ireland, I haven’t seen him.
The work-rate of the Cork players was immense, especially Bill Cooper and Darragh Fitzgibbon at midfield. Also Mark Ellis at centre-back, who really put the shackles on Podge Collins, so much so that Podge was taken off at half time.
The full-back line for Cork tied up the Clare danger men, Conor McGrath, Shane O’Donnell and Aaron Shanaher - full credit to McDonnell, Spillane and Cahalane, for minding the house. I also think Clare played into Cork's hands by dropping one of their midfielders Colm Galvin, back as an extra defender. I think Colm is too good of an attacking player for that role.
Also Clare were wild and selfish in their shooting. I know Tony Kelly scored from frees and play, but he was responsible for some bad wides, when it would be better to bring some of his better-positioned colleagues into play.
Of course Cork were guilty of some bad misses of their own.
Cork will have to look at this aspect of their play for their next big day out in Croke Park when they may not be able to afford these misses against better opposition.
All in all, a fairly good Munster final, not a great one. I for one am always looking for one or more highlights, or one outstanding moment.
I had to wait until near the end of this game to get just that. Namely, Damian Cahalane’s lung-bursting run, ball on hurley, taking on all of Clare, and laying the ball off for a great score. To do this at the start of the game would be expected, but in the final minute of an energy snapping contest, was outstanding, and it shows the leader and the man he has become for this team.
The red army are on the move again. Cork hurling in crisis. What crises?
Cork: Munster senior and minor Champions. Enough said.... and from a Clareman, Congrats.