After some dark days the new blood has revitalised the Rebels

After some dark days the new blood has revitalised the Rebels
Shane Kingston and Alan Cadogan celebrate Cork's opening goal. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

The John Horgan hurling column

RISK taking is something that can make or break a management team, if it works the applause is loud and clear, if it goes disastrously wrong the prophets of doom gather like vultures.

Sending in five newcomers with little or no experience of the white heat of Munster championship hurling was a risk that Kieran Kingston and his selectors took last Sunday in Semple stadium.

Colm Spillane, Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Luke Meade and Shane Kingston had at various stages of the Munster and National Leagues shown a considerable hand and had illustrated that they were the future of Cork hurling.

Michael Breen and Mark Coleman. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Michael Breen and Mark Coleman. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

However, at the same time, nothing prepares you for Tipperary in Thurles on a Summer Sunday, it’s a world apart from anything you have experienced before.

Thurles on days like this are days you must stand up to be counted and to a man these new breed of Cork hurlers did exactly that.

All five of them, substitute Mikey Cahalane too stood up to the considerable task handed to them and their contribution to Cork’s wonderful and fully deserved victory was immense.

Firstly, their work-rate was huge and each and every one of them played roles of great significance.

Spillane settled into the game and a few early big snatches from the sky told us that he was not here to enjoy the scenery.

He was outstanding in the number four jersey while outside him Mark Coleman had a sensational debut, getting through the game as if he had been here a hundred times before. In the eyes of many he was Cork’s man of the matc.

Darragh Fitzgibbon’s energy was phenomenal all through, how many early touches did he have, how often did he look for and find the man in the right position and his subsequent contribution was vast.

Shane Kingston has always exhibited his great potential and from an early age he was pencilled in as a Cork hurler. However, potential and deliverance are two different things completely and you must go out and do it on the day. He certainly did that, a haul of 1-4 from play would, on another day, have him contending for man of the match.

One remembers watching Luke Meade scoring three goals for Jimmy Barry-Murphy in a challenge game a number of years ago in a place called Martinstown in deepest Limerick against the home team.

Luke Meade in the 2015 challenge against Limerick. Picture: Larry Cummins
Luke Meade in the 2015 challenge against Limerick. Picture: Larry Cummins

You never, ever put any great store into what transpires in challenge encounters and he has had to wait a bit since to make the big breakthrough. He finished up on Sunday with three points from play, three significant points and his ability to roam and cover so much ground was a big factor throughout.

None of the aforementioned were in the Cork squad last season, 12 months later they have embarked on what should be lengthy inter-county careers.

These are still very early days and at the end of the day this was just a beginning of what will be a tough road.

Derek McGrath and Dan Shanahan will have noted every aspect of Cork’s play on Sunday and their plotting and planning process will go into overdrive this week.

They have that advantage of having first hand knowledge of their opponents but, at the same time, Cork now have this thunderous battle and experience behind them and the type of game that Sunday’s was is going to be worth its weight in gold when the sides collide in a few weeks time.

Not one Cork player fell short of the required mark last Sunday and it was probably the best Cork team performance as a unit that we have seen for many a long day.

And let’s face it, there have been some dark days that were still too vivid in our mind going up the road before the game.

The more streetwise Cork players had a great day too and none more so than Damien Cahalane who, as Anthony Daly quite rightly put it yesterday, was in Seamus Callanan’s face all afternoon. It wasn’t an overly busy day for Anthony Nash but the importance of the superb save he made from Callanan just before half-time cannot be emphasised enough.

Mark Ellis gave a towering display too, particularly after half-time and there is a lot more settlement now in defence than there has been.

From beginning to end this was a shootout between hurling’s fiercest rivals and for Cork to outscore what is believed to be the best forward unit in the country was some going.

Conor Lehane was majestic and on another day could have ended up with 14 or 15 points.

Conor Lehane was on fire. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Conor Lehane was on fire. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Patrick Horgan posted four points from play, no argument with that and he could have had one or two more.

Scoring so well and not once from a placed ball will give him extra confidence going forward.

Alan Cadogan’s three first-half points were superbly executed and were a big contribution in the final analysis.

Now of course the complexion of the landscape has changed completely, Cork will take a significant leap forward in the pecking order and now they have become the team to be shot at.

This victory would have done justice to a day when there was silverware on the podium but, at the end of the day, it was a Munster quarter-final.

There will, and rightly so, be great applause for this Cork performance and the players deserve a day or two to reflect on the day. But caution is urged too and losing the run of themselves would be the worst thing possible.

That won’t happen, be certain sure of that because this Cork management team is one of the most grounded you could get. They’ll salute the players for the excellence of their performance on the day but at the earliest chance they will re-focus them and prepare them for what lies ahead in Waterford.

Great and all as last Sunday was, it must sooner rather than later be consigned to the past, that is the reality of what this game is all about.

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