When Barry Kelly blew his whistle for the final time on Sunday, or maybe it was prior to the last blowing, the lush green of Thurles was swarmed by young supporters. The kids have new heroes this season, and some of these kids are not much younger than the newest Rebels! The new-look Cork hurling team have taken us on a voyage that a few short months ago was well outside any borders of expectation.
Trips to Thurles in hay-saving weather were being considered by the State Exams Commission for inclusion in future history examination questions. Only for Kerry, Cork were the basement team in the Munster hurling stakes.
The keyboard warriors were having a great time of it. They had many targets in their sights. Frank Murphy and the County Board were getting blamed. When a player was needed as a scapegoat, Damian Cahalane was often criticised.
A hurler, hewn from the double DNA of Castlehaven patronage... He should stick to the big ball he was told. And by the way, he would be some addition to them as well.
Last Sunday, he owned the number three geansaí, which has very few, if any, forgiving morsels of fabric. A below par outing in this position will almost certainly lead to defeat, such are the tiny margins of error.
If St Finbarr’s can claim credit for the hurling acumen of the West Cork man, what about the number six occupant? Millstreet was never slow in exercising its responsibilities as regards producing high-quality Gaelic footballers, but their first senior hurler is now some operator. He may not be there yet but a request by Ronan Curran for a selfie may not be that far away.
If the two central defenders were mighty, the MVP gong was handed to the 19-year-old Blarney representative. Time was, when this enclave was known for Aran sweaters, busloads of gullible yanks, and stone-kissers. Now it is Mark Coleman land.
Honestly, I think there must be a bit of a gardener or green-keeper in him, as the cusping of a number of blades of grass, prior to placing the sliotar for sideline cuts is so effective. His first half point from the sideline was worth a tad more than the alteration it made it to the Cork scoreboard.
As it sailed over the terrace, the Rebel fans erupted.
In the past, Anthony Nash was the subject of some criticism, and despite the fact that Stephen O’Keeffe in the Waterford goal made a number of top class saves, the Kanturk muinteóir was probably the more effective of the two keepers. I would think that if he was employed as an assassin, he would have a rifle, without a sight, such is his accuracy.
Undoubtedly, there are many boxes to be ticked, when drawing up the skill set, to be an outstanding number one but I would think that bravery and belief in your ability would be well in the mix. He was the number one man in every sense of the term.
After the Tipp game, I met one or two who expressed their concerns about Bill Cooper. They may have been correct in their assessment, but didn’t he come away from Thurles with two handy video clips.
His second half point, 12 seconds after the restart, was some statement of intent. Timing a shoulder challenge is a science in itself, but if it results in hammering an opposition warrior you’ll have the fans’ backing for sure. The Youghal man’s lowering of Kevin Moran 17 minutes into that second period made him a hero of the Cork faithful in the stands and on the terrace.
Over the past few years, there was a certain amount of importance bestowed on you if you were in possession of Conor Lehane’s stats. Brilliant for five minutes, missing for 10, you can mess around with the numbers, but you get the gist.
Sometimes an injury is a blessing in disguise. When the news of Conor’s ankle ailment reached the markets, it stopped the negative questioning of his ability to repeat his performance against Tipperary. Instead, the famous ankle was more of a talking point down here than Leo Varadkar taking the top job.
Anyway, Lehane played and landed four points, but the one after a quarter of an hour just confirmed what a number of us already knew, he really is an exceptional talent. The two main commercial banks in the land have tapped into the positivity that attaches to have leading GAA players on their books.
I did notice during the red drought that on occasion Colm Cooper and Henry Sheflin were brought into Rebel land by their employers to appeal to the masses in Cork. Now if that wasn’t telling us..!
For the next while, expect Conor and his fellow east Cork compatriot and banker, Seamus Harnedy, to satisfy any banking promotional needs around these parts.
Of course, there are many more that could and should get mention, but with the counter moving towards its target, we will finish with a brief look ahead to the Munster final against Clare.
It will be interesting, from many points of view, down around Cloyne the involvement of Dónal Óg as a coaching advisor to Clare, will be particularly interesting. Was it during the summer of 2015, that the aforementioned Dónal Óg arrived on to the Sunday Game studio, with serious empirical evidence that Cork GAA should be classified as an endangered species. No Harty Cup, no All-Ireland minor, no All-Ireland U21 won in the recent past, no coaching structures, no centre of excellence, and maybe a few more issues.
July 9 can’t come fast enough.
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