WHAT had been a great year for Cork hurling ended sadly yesterday for Kieran Kingston and his side.
Right from their first battle with Tipp, in the first round of the Munster Championship, they have given their loyal band of supporters plenty to cheer about.
But, unfortunately, yesterday it all went wrong as they were simply beaten by a better team on the day.
There can be no arguing in that, a fact that both he and Pat Hartnett, both said afterwards – the better team on the day won.
Whilst it is very simple to say that, one has to note the sending off played a huge part in their loss.
From that to the finished they were outscored 3-8 to 0-5 and that stat alone tells its own story.
Would they have won? No-one can answer that, but one thing is for sure the game would have been a lot closer 15 on 15.
The sad part was that it will be what Damien Cahalane will be remembered for, and not some of his great displays in the red jersey to that point this year.
Few who witnessed this great run out of defence in the final minutes of the Munster final will ever forget it and how it led to the score that clinched the win for Cork that day.
In fairness to Damien he would be the first to admit the tackle was reckless and the ref had no choice. In such a tight game, and Cork were in front at that point, it was always going to be a huge factor.th
Hopefully fans will recall the good days for him as well as the sending off yesterday when they look back on the year.
Cast your mind back to the start of the season and there would be very few, if any, fans of the Rebels would have predicted we would have won the Munster title, not to mind get to an All-Ireland final.
But we did and for 50 minutes of the game we were still in with a right chance of winning. At that Cork were no-where near their best yesterday and still Waterford couldn’t shake them off.
With Darragh Fives in outstanding form at the back, where he moved to despite being named as corner-forward, they went back to their sweeper system.
They had abandoned it against Cork in their Munster clash, and credit to Derek McGrath and his management team they learnt from this.
They had built a system that suited their style of hurling and when they saw what happened against the Rebels they quickly reverted to form and now find themselves in the final.
With the win being so raw now they won’t get too many on Leeside being delighted for them, but in the cold light of day true hurling fans will be hoping they end their 59 year wait to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
From a Cork point-of-view they can take many positives from the season, new players blooded and some quality U21s and minors coming behind them.
This was a side that was supposed to lose to Tipp, head down the qualifier route and hope to reach the quarter-final, where they would probably be beaten by one of the ‘big’ sides.
Well to one and all Cork can say they are one of the ‘big’ sides and are only going to get better over the next few years.
There is serious young talent in this side, in the likes of Mark Coleman and Darragh Fitzgibbon, amongst others, and Kingston has plenty to be optimistic about going forward.
His two-year term is up this year and one can only hope that he and his selectors stay on. They are building something special here and are not far away from taking us back to Croker on All-Ireland final day.
Playing there was a new experience for a lot of this side and it’s a daunting place to run out on to. There were obvious nerves early on from some of the players, and it took a while for some of them to find their feet.
This loss is another step on the massive learning curve for this side and hopefully, like the management, there won’t be too many hanging up their inter-county hurleys.
It’s a bitterly disappointing day for the panel and for the fans who have supported them all they way this year, with Croker a sea of red again yesterday.
I have never believed in the sentiment of Cork are back, as I have always felt we were never far off the mark.
I still believe there is an All-Ireland in this panel and that Kingston and co are the men to lead us there.
Feelings are raw but already my thoughts are turning to next year and I, for one, can’t wait.