I KNOW a lot of people have been to the Costa del Sol. But I’d say the heat and atmosphere in the square in Costa del Thurles yesterday would more than match up, and not to mention the heat ON the field which surpassed anything I can remember.
Great credit is due to both sets of players and also to the team of officials on duty.
One got a feeling amongst the supporters, especially the Cork supporters, that they were loving this day being so hot, knowing that they had a lot of young players on their team, and also knowing that no one plays better than Cork with the sun on their backs.
I know a lot of supposed geniuses will be looking at the tactics of this game, but I believe the greatest tactic of all is the absolute desire within yourself, and collectively, to win your own ball. But not alone to win it, but having the intelligence to know what and when to do the right thing with it.
A lot of right things were done yesterday by both teams, but also as in every game, a lot of mistakes were made.
Some shooting of bad wides, especially Waterford, and Cork had their misses too. But I believe this Cork team played way better against Tipperary. Some individuals didn’t reach the heights that they reached against Tipp.
But that was always going to be an issue with some of the younger players, like Shane Kingston, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Luke Meade - pressure can do different things to players. But I have to say that the management acted swiftly by replacing these very young players well into the game. They have to learn that its not going to be a perfect day every day. And they will be better for that experience the next day.
But where Cork really improved from the Tipp game was in their defence, especially their full-back line - only conceding 1-15 is testament to that. The man wearing number three shirt, Damian Cahalane was very impressive, guarding his goal very well. He the right things, with, or without, the ball, which is very important for a full-back. Nothing too flashy but very effective.
It’s not about how many balls you hit 60 yards it’s about stopping your forward hitting it any yard at all! And of course, we know the DNA is good - the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree - his father Niall Cahalane was one of the best backmen in Gaelic football when he played for Cork. And if you don’t believe me, ask some of the old Kerry footballers... He never took any prisoners.
Anthony Nash was very solid in goals, giving real assurance to his defenders. I know Anthony has to vary his puck-outs in the modern game, but I would advise him, that when he has forwards capable of winning the ball from long puck-outs, he should keep finding them forwards. Yesterday, some of the short puck-outs were putting his team under pressure.
I also think Stephen McDonnell and Colm Spillane covered their line well, I think Spillane was a bit unlucky to be sent off - there was no malice or intent - it was more of a misjudgement on his behalf.
The half back line of Mark Ellis and Christopher Joyce were also very strong, but the last man of this defence, Mark Coleman, was superb in everything he did - this guy has it all - good in the air, good on the ground, high or low, fast or slow, he doesn’t mind. Hard to believe he is only 19 years old.
Brilliant striker of the ball - always looks up and delivers great ball, and of course he can cut a sideline ball over the bar too - my man of the match. A real sign of a good defence is when most of the opposing forwards are replaced. And Waterford had to replace the young Hurler of the Year, Hurler of the Year, Austin Gleeson - Also Shane and Stephen Bennett, two very good forwards as well.
But any match you go to, especially a Munster Hurling Championship match, you always remember one highlight, one outstanding moment - be it a score, a great save or a brilliant individual performance, but I wont remember this match for any of those, although Stephen O’Keeffe’s save was outstanding - my lasting memory from this match will be the unbelievable belt of the old fashioned shoulder that Bill Cooper delivered on Kevin Moran.
It was a game-changer, especially when Conor Lehane picked up the loose ball and put it over the bar. Cooper has his critics, but he is a great workhorse and a great team player, and that moment emphasised that.
The one pleasing thing about the forwards of Cork was the performance and form of Seamus Harnedy, the Gortroe man. He showed at every opportunity for the ball, especially in the air, and he did it very well. He was always busy - the Seamus Harnedy of a couple of years ago - a great leader. Also Lehane, despite the injury, did very well - played all over the pitch - work rate fantastic.
And of course the skill of Patrick Horgan, - as always his free taking was superb, but his work-rate will have to increase, as he has everything else. The Rebels are still roaring - a very hard march to stop. Clare up next, but that’s for another day.
Hope the weather, the atmosphere and the hurling are as good.