GASP and pause for breath!
Let’s be honest, few called yesterday’s game in Cork’s favour.
With 13 of the Tipperary side that started the All-Ireland final in action this was always going to be a tough ask for the Rebels and add in five debutants as well, making it even tougher.
It doesn’t matter what age they are, starting in a championship game at this level is always tough and no doubt there were plenty of nerves in that Cork dressing-room.
Add in the fact that most, if not all of the first-time starters, would have been playing in front of the biggest crowd of their hurling careers and then facing Tipperary at Semple Stadium on top of that.
But when you least expect it Cork will always surprise you and have no doubt they will be the talk of the hurling world for the next few days.
And rightly so, this was probably their best display in a number of years and as for the five rookies, they looked like they had been playing there for years.
Defensively as a unit Cork looked more settled, with Christopher Joyce, Mark Ellis and Mark Coleman in top form. Coleman, one of the five first-time starters would have been my choice for Man of the Match, closely followed by Colm Spillane in the full-back line.
Standing beside Spillane in that line was Damien Cahalane, who has taken his fair share of criticism over the last few years.
A lot of it has been unfair, but yesterday he showed what he is capable of and keep Seamus Callanan quiet for the 70 minutes.
Of course you are not going to keep him scoreless, but his effect on the game was minimal and when marking someone like that it was very much job done by Cahalane.
Afterwards he was delighted with the win, but wasn’t getting carried away with anything.
“After a game like that you would be stuck for words, Tipp are a super, super team and it was going to take us bringing our A game to even put it up to them and to be fair to a man today, every fella brought their A game.
“I will be honest coming up here today the result was at the back of our minds, it was all about the performance. All we were looking to do was to get fellas to go out work hard and give a good account of themselves and thankfully today it was good enough to get the win.
“No matter who you are marking in there, every one of the Tipp forwards are super players and I think the six backs stood up and worked hard.
“The first goal came at a good time and it gave us a boost at a vital time. It gives us at the back an opportunity to come out in front and maybe take a bit of a risk at times.
“A huge goal and for a young fella to get that chance and to stick it on his championship debut was just fantastic.
“The five fellas making their debuts were all unbelievable and showed they have huge balls and they all worked their socks off, everything fell for them and they were superb.
“But really when you look at it, all it does is get us through to the next day and that’s all it does. We will get back down to it in training now and take if from here.
“This gets us into a semi-final against Waterford and nothing more and that’s going to be another incredibly difficult game,” concluded Damien.
Captain of the side, Stephen McDonnell, was proud of his side, but said it was difficult to put into words the feeling afterwards.
“It’s difficult to put it into words, you know Tipp could have won, we could have and thankfully did, but it was close all the way through and went right down to the wire.
“But this will be forgotten about in a few days and it just puts into the next round and another tough game against Waterford and really no more than that.
“There’s a long year ahead and we won’t be getting carried away with anything and it will be back down training during the week and forget about this and drive on for the Waterford game,” concluded Stephen.
The attitude of the players has to be admired and is great to hear. Yes, you take the win and have a great night out afterwards, but then you park it and move on to the next game.
Go back to the league and remember after the Clare game most thought all Cork had to do was turn up to beat Dublin.
We all know what happened there and you can be sure that Kieran Kingston and his management team will be making sure that doesn’t happen again.
Will it guarantee them a win, of course not, but the road home from Thurles was a far brighter one for the team and this fans that it has been in the last few years.
Nothing won yet, but there is cause for renewed optimism and it’s all about building on this win now.