Cahalane's comeback has given Cork hurling fans a real lift

Cahalane's comeback has given Cork hurling fans a real lift
COMEBACK KID: Michael Cahalane, on the left, and Seamus Harnedy, tackle Noel Connors. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Eamonn Murphy

Hurling

THE Cork hurlers grabbing an absolutely vital win last weekend was a real lift for all Leesiders.

Sure I know it’s ‘only the league’, but it put me in as good a mood as when I receive my Kelly Brook calendar every year under the Christmas tree. Yes, that happy.

There’s no logic to it, particularly as Cork could still be relegated in the league and the game itself was very scrappy, but then sports fandom rarely is. Of course we’re supposed to be unbiased observers in the media, but the major upside of working for this Evening Echo is that we can embrace our full-blooded Rebel enthusiasm.

Lately we’ve had to be regularly critical of Cork – and no doubt will again this season – but Kieran Kingston’s management and the players deserve the plaudits here. Waterford, even after an early goal, were never allowed hit their stride, and Cork defied their underdog status and the awful Walsh Park surface to get the job done.

The result alone was a major positive, but the other good news story came with the impression made by Michael Cahalane.

The Bandon native was the first forward sub introduced, ahead of Patrick Horgan, when Alan Cadogan had to be replaced. He landed a point and had an effort waved narrowly wide, but more importantly he used his power as a ball-winning outlet in a two-man attack alongside Seamus Harnedy.

This time last year, Cahalane wasn’t even featuring for his club, as the former dual Cork minor had spent two years out of the game after being diagnosed with a heart condition. He made his comeback for Bandon against Kilworth last August and went on to collect a PIHC medal.

That in turn led to his Cork recall – Jimmy Barry-Murphy had brought him on board straight out of minor – but for casual supporters he’s an unknown quantity. As a teenager though, Cahalane was a prodigious talent.

Dial it back to 2013 and Cork had two players more highly-rated than Waterford’s bright young things that went on to lift the minor All-Ireland. Cahalane and Pa O’Callaghan had excelled at U16 level when the Rebels won the All-Ireland tournament, and shone in the Harty Cup for Hamilton High and Charleville respectively.

Cork were fancied going into that minor championship four years ago, especially when they saw off Clare in the opening round and were at home to Waterford in the Munster semi-final. Alas they fell to a Déise spearheaded by Austin Gleeson, Patrick Curran, Tom Devine and the Bennetts, albeit after extra time and down to 14 for most of it.

Even in defeat, Cork hurling should have reaped a harvest from the 2013 minors. Yet last season from that team only Pa Collins, as deputy to Anthony Nash, was involved for the Cork seniors.

Anthony Spillane hit 0-4 from play against Waterford couldn’t quite kick on at senior, despite getting an audition from JBM, though his brother Colm is currently nailing down a corner-back slot. Kieran Histon, Dylan Quinn and Peter Kelleher would be better known as footballers now.

Others have done well, if not at inter-county. Newtown’s Conor Twomey recently won the Fitzgibbon Cup with Mary I, Rickard Cahalane is a consistent performer for UCC and Ballymartle, Mark O’Connor helped Douglas to their first U21 county and Alan O’Callaghan is a mainstay of the Blackrock side.

Pa O’Callaghan is captain of Ballyhea this season, and capable of cutting loose at will in the SHC, but has turned down numerous opportunities to link up with Kingston’s squad. At least if Cahalane fulfils his potential the Cork hurling faithful can feel the tide is turning a bit.

On a final note, even allowing for the horrendous pitch, there were far too many rucks in the Cork-Waterford game. The late Peter Downey, from Inniscarra, always argued referees are culpable for allowing that type of hurling develop. It’s fantastic to see the Camogie Association have recognised his passion for officiating by opening The Peter Downey Referee Academy at Croke Park.

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