The Rebels have been reborn but we shouldn't get carried away before facing Waterford

The Rebels have been reborn but we shouldn't get carried away before facing Waterford
Stephen McDonnell celebrates with supporters after the match. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

‘It was nice to stand on the platform in Thurles train station today with a big smile on my face… it’s been a while.’ – Corkonian, Kieran Hickey on Twitter

What a difference a day makes.

Strolling along the road towards the local shop on Saturday afternoon, one of the neighbours stops me in my tracks, an old-timer.

“Young McNamara, you’ve a lot to learn yet, dismissing our chances tomorrow,” he says with a smile across his face and in the thickest of Leeside accents, before adding, “Cork-Tipp games rarely go to form boy, sure isn’t that the beauty of the rivalry? And trust me, I’ve seen a lot more of the fixture than you have.”

He stopped short of concretely stating the Rebels would lower Tipp’s mast, but the message was clear: no script is written until it’s there, in black and white.

The formbooks were certainly discarded en route back to the southern capital on Sunday evening. Following this latest head-scratcher of a sporting result, do they really count for anything anymore anyway? You would wonder.

To go as far to say ‘Cork are back’ as some have, might prove to be a premature statement, though.

However, for the likes of dyed-in-the-wool supporters of the Rebels, such as an old schoolmate of mine, Kieran Hickey, it’s money in the bank on this journey of redemption.

The large attendance looks on at Semple Stadium. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
The large attendance looks on at Semple Stadium. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

From as early as January Kieran Kingston has illustrated, repeatedly, how theirs is a long-term project, a trial and error process, if you will.

Kingston and his selectors, though extremely unlikely to explain so in public, are more concerned with leaving the code in the county on a stronger footing than anything else.

If silverware is earned on the road, it’ll be an incalculable bonus, hardly the primary objective achieved. They’re a realistic bunch, after all.

Cork manager Kieran Kingston. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cork manager Kieran Kingston. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

But people are beginning to get that in the People’s Republic. And they’re perfectly fine with it, too. It’s helping as well. The pressure valve is released and development is happening because of it. The present group is not surrounded and suffocated by expectations of the unrealistic among us.

Three U9 Douglas GAA players with Christopher Joyce: Liam Cregan, Olan Taffee, and Cian O'Donovan.
Three U9 Douglas GAA players with Christopher Joyce: Liam Cregan, Olan Taffee, and Cian O'Donovan.

The days of individuals getting ahead of themselves on the back of one keynote victory are essentially of time’s past.

And one of the positives of that mind-set is people can enjoy a success for what it is, rather than what it could mean. Or, further still, where it could lead.

Hence, why I reference Hickey. He probably spoke for most Leesiders when he tweeted of his taking a moment to appreciate a job very well done by Kingston and Cork.

Everybody has said Cork’s four-point dethroning of the provincial champions has breathed life into the Munster championship, earlier than was expected to be the case.

Of greater significance to the code as an entity, though, is the fact it has pumped air into the lungs of Cork hurling.

It would be a stretch to suggest the game was on life-support by the Lee, however, a blood transfusion was required. The infusion of youth is representative of the boost sought after.

Understandably, people are discussing the encounter with Waterford on June 18, the Munster SHC semi-final.

However, Leesiders should pencil Thursday, July 13 into their diaries as well.

On that occasion – one that will be just as important as the senior clash – the same counties will meet in the provincial U21 semi-final.

Manager John Meyler will have a strong hand to travel with to Waterford with 12 senior panellists available for selection, barring injuries. Yes, you read that correctly, 12.

Encouraged, as a Corkonian? You should be. Last Sunday highlighted how competitive Cork are sure to be at the U21 grade this year. Logically, if the players can perform as efficiently as they did against Tipp, they should be confident of correcting Cork’s inability to win matches at the younger level.

Of course, Waterford are the defending All-Ireland U21 champions. Yet, as we saw with Mayo in the football equivalent this season, that can count for little, at times.

Nobody, of course, is stating the Rebels will knock the Déise off their provincial perch at U21, but it sure as hell won’t be in just hope they will be travelling east.

The $6 million dollar question for the seniors now is, can they repeat the tricks of Sunday in that Munster semi-final in the meantime? It would be doubly-naïve to say no.

Yet, a word of caution. A mountain of commentators and supporters raved about the contribution of Cork’s half-back line with Chris Joyce, Mark Ellis and Mark Coleman storming into every play as if their lives depended on it.

Michael Breen and Mark Ellis in action. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Michael Breen and Mark Ellis in action. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

However, watch the game back and analyse it coldly. A high number of the possessions they accrued in that sector stemmed from aimless deliveries on the part of Tipp’s defence.

And not every time were those Premier defenders under pressure to justify such rushed clearances.

In ways, Tipp played into Cork’s hands, certainly in that aspect of the match. Additionally, Michael Ryan and his sideline cohorts were slow in making defensive switches, ones that were obvious.

For instance, as soon as John O’Keeffe was yellow-carded for upending Alan Cadogan he should have been switched off the Douglas attacker immediately. It was obvious, even at that point, he was in for a torrid time.

Furthermore, Niall O’Meara should have replaced Seán Curran much earlier than he did. The latter forward was guilty of a number of errors, thus doing his part to enhance the reputation of that Cork half-back line on the day.

Also, it was flagged here that both Maher brothers, Ronan and Pádraic, could excel in this environment. In fact, the opposite was the case as the Thurles Sarsfields’ men were taken to the cleaners by a rampant Conor Lehane at different stages.

However, the raiding threat of Brendan Maher through those central channels was also highlighted last week and he nearly raised a green flag in the first-half.

Derek McGrath will be conscious of occasions Tipp made hay by directly running through the middle of the Leesiders’ defence.

It’s a recurring issue for Cork, an issue Kingston will attempt to eradicate before June 18.

Trust, though, will have grown further in Cork’s management after Sunday. It was always said they were clued in to what was required and now everybody can surely see that with this group taking another step forward on Sunday.

Patrick Horgan arrives out for the start of the match. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Patrick Horgan arrives out for the start of the match. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

The most important element of their overall performance in Semple Stadium, however, was in outlining how this victory will be parked with Waterford on the horizon.

That attitude was indicative of a mature unit, mature beyond their years.

I’m sure Hickey and my neighbour would agree.

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