The Cork hurlers are ready throw off the shackles again

The Cork hurlers are ready throw off the shackles again
The Cork team huddle before the league win over Waterford. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

The Tony Considine hurling column

I’M REALLY looking forward to this game on Sunday, as I believe this could be the game of the championship.

Actually it could match some of the great games these two counties produced in the mid-noughties.

Brian Corcoran celebrates scoring his side's second goal in 2005 in Thurles. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Brian Corcoran celebrates scoring his side's second goal in 2005 in Thurles. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

They weren’t just great games, they were classic games, with the likes of such brilliant players as Ken McGrath, John Mullane, Paul Flynn, Tony Browne and others, plus Cork with the likes of the O’Connor twins, the Rock himself, Joe Deane, Seán Óg, John Gardiner, and of course, the great Brian Corcoran... what memories!!

Now, though, we have new players on the block — not perhaps household names yet, but players with the talent to become just that — Austin Gleeson, player of the year 2016, the Bennett brothers, the Mahony brothers, Jamie Barron, Tadhg deBurca, Conor Lehane, Seamus Harnedy, Patrick Horgan, Alan Cadogan, Mark Coleman, Anthony Nash.

Cork’s Conor Lehane goes on the offensive, chased by Tipperary’s Ronan Maher. Picture: Cathal Noonan
Cork’s Conor Lehane goes on the offensive, chased by Tipperary’s Ronan Maher. Picture: Cathal Noonan

All these players are capable of lighting up any championship game and giving brilliant individual performances.

Any one of these players can be a match winner on any given day.

The big question here is, What kind of game plan will we see on Sunday?

Will it be a game played with freedom, or will it be a stop-start, with loads of players behind the ball?

I definitely hope it’s NOT the latter.

Waterford are a team that have to change from the way they have been playing for the last couple of years, as I think their players should be given a lot more freedom to play the hurling they are capable of playing... fast open, attractive hurling.

I believe Cork will definitely play this way, like they did against Tipperary, when the scoreboard showed it to be the correct tactic.

Players playing with the shackles off. Great entertainment value for everyone.

Waterford have been using a very defensive system, incorporating a sweeper to dominate the opposing forwards, but I’m sure Kieran Kingston, and his management team will come up with a plan to negate that.

Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Perhaps they will pull their half-forward line out to the middle of the field, especially, Conor Lehane, who is very capable of scoring from distance, and also, as we saw against Tipp, very capable of running at defenders and scoring off left or right wings. Darragh Fitzgibbon, Luke Meade, and Shane Kingston are capable of doing the same, also.

All these four forwards are very pacey, with plenty of energy, and not easy to catch when they get on a run.

This would give great space inside for Seamus Harnedy, Patrick Horgan, and especially Alan Cadogan, who loves the wide spaces of Thurles. All three are deadly finishers.

However, I think most Cork supporters won’t be worrying about that end of the field, because they know these players are capable of getting enough scores to win any game.

Their concern will start in the defence and the consistency of very same.

Although the Cork team played really well against Tipperary, they had a lot of faults as well, and a lot of things to work on, especially in that defence.

Anthony Nash, a great goalkeeper, got them out of jail a few times, even though they conceded 1-26.

Anthony Nash is congratulated by supporters. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Anthony Nash is congratulated by supporters. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

I will say here and now if Cork concede 1-26 on Sunday they will not be winning this game, but I’m sure the Rock, Pat Hartnett, and John Meyler (who is a big addition to the Cork set-up this year, with his vast experience of inter-county management) will find a way to close down these dangerous Waterford forwards, such as Austin Gleeson, Padraig Mahony, big Maurice Shanahan, plus Stephen and Shane Bennett, a pair who know how to get goals and don’t need a second invitation either.

However, I’m sure Stephen McDonnell, Damian Cahalane, and Colm Spillane will know some of the dark secrets of defending their goals. If they don’t, they will pay a big price.

Also, the supply of ball going in here will have to be cut off by players out the field, or at least try to slow it down.

This is going to be a fascinating contest with plenty of great hurling, great intensity, and great physicality.

I also think the referee will have to be on top of his game, and I think eyes in the back of his head wouldn’t go astray.

However, I hope we are not talking about the referee after Sunday’s game. Hopefully, he lets the game flow and the players will help him to do that, as that is what everybody would like to see.

I believe the biggest crowd of the year so far will be at this game.

Now, my job is to call it. Who will win? It is a hard one to call, but I was never one to sit on the fence (one could get splinters doing that).

I have seen something in this Cork team from the start of this year, and I still see it.

If they improve again from the Tipp game — which I’m sure Pat Ryan, as coach, will be looking for — their high fitness level, their good touch, and the fact they possess belief all adds up to a Cork win for me... just.

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