Tony Considine: Great to see Rebel hurling back to its best in Thurles

Tony Considine: Great to see Rebel hurling back to its best in Thurles
Cork supporters celebrate. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

The Tony Considine column

WHAT a way to start the Munster Championship!

Anyone who thought that Tipperary would run away with this game, and many did, including Cork people, got their answer here.

As I said on Friday ‘when the cuckoo sings’ the Cork hurlers are dangerous, and when Cork think like that, there is going to be only one answer.

Stephen McDonnell leads his team in the parade. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Stephen McDonnell leads his team in the parade. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The first 20 minutes of this game, we saw 19 scores, and not a serious challenge by either side, it was so open.

And that was always going to suit a young Cork team. Not alone young, but with serious pace and skill, especially Darragh Fitzgibbon, Mark Coleman, Shane Kingston and Luke Meade - real speed merchants, managed and coached very well by Kieran Kingston and his management team. But I think managements greatest credit must go to getting the experienced players right after all the criticism they have received from both inside and outside the county.

Getting Conor Lehane playing at centre-forward and giving him responsibility for taking the frees - I have never seen him playing as well as he did for Cork, and showing real leadership with that extra pressure. Also taking Patrick Horgan off free taking duties benefited him - he was more in the game from play.

The real plus for the selectors was getting the defence right, especially Mark Ellis at six, who showed great leadership and playing as a centre-back should. Damien Cahalane at full-back stood his ground well, as of course did, the outstanding Colm Spillane beside him.

What this will do for Cork’s morale and confidence both for management and players, and especially Pat Ryan who took over the coaching duties this year, is immense. The first touch was brilliant, and that is down to good coaching. The team were in excellent physical condition also. I think Pat Hartnett and The Rock have passed on that real steel they possessed in their own game, to the present defenders.

Cork selector Diarmuid O'Sullivan with the team. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Cork selector Diarmuid O'Sullivan with the team. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Anthony Nash, bravery in the goals, contributed to this largely with his shot stopping and puck-outs.

The crowd also contributed greatly to the game, over 30,000 attended, and what an atmosphere - especially great for the younger players of Cork in their first Munster Championship game.

I recall a conversation I had with the Cork U21 manager Damian Irwin last year, when they were beaten in the Munster championship. He said at the time that although they were beaten, a consolation was that four of his team would play senior next year and have a great future: Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Kingston and Luke Meade.

Shane Kingston scores the first Cork goal. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Shane Kingston scores the first Cork goal. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Irwin is a good judge of hurling but I didn’t believe him as I didn’t think they would come through as quick. Not alone did they come through with flying colours today, but they were the inspiration for the experienced players.

I met a lot of Cork supporters, including some Cork media, who were on a high after the game. It was good to see all the Cork youngsters with hurleys in their hands out on the pitch hurling and getting autographs. We haven’t had that scene from Cork in the last number of years, especially in Thurles. Their fans bring something extra special to the occasion with their humour and passion.

A section of the 30,103 supporters. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
A section of the 30,103 supporters. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

And the next day there will be an even bigger following from Cork, all with high expectations. Kieran Kingston and his management team will have to keep these players grounded as there are bigger and better challenges ahead.

I believe this Tipperary team are gone off the boil. Apart from a few of their players, like Michael Breen and to a lesser extent, Pádraic Maher, these players seem to have lost their hunger and desire for battle. They have conceded 5-48 in two games including the league final.

This is why Cork must be careful not to get carried away. Also their surprise element is now gone.

Yet this management team have learned a lot in the last number of years from defeats. As they well know, there’s only six inches between a pat on the back and a kick up the arse, and the person who pats you on the back will give the hardest kick!

Before I finish, I’d like to say, the greatest highlight for many people, and especially for himself and his family, was to see Michael Cahalane coming on the field. Not alone to come on, but to get the vital score.

Michael Cahalane and Seamus Harnedy after the goal. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Michael Cahalane and Seamus Harnedy after the goal. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Many people know that Michael had health and injury problems in the last couple of years and its a credit to him and the character he showed yesterday. Well done Michael. You typified the character that is in this Cork team.

Now this has opened up the Munster Championship and if all the games are as good and as entertaining we are in for a great summer of hurling. It’s all we all wish for, as the Munster Championship is, and always was, special with a brilliant atmosphere all of its own.

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