McDonnell: It's a whole new ball game now for Cork

McDonnell: It's a whole new ball game now for Cork
Cork's Stephen McDonnell under pressure from Seamus Callanan of Tipperary. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

John Horgan


THERE’S been a strong belief this week that there will be a considerable backlash from Tipperary next Sunday against Cork in the aftermath of their trouncing by Galway in the national league final.

The general consensus is that the defeat was a one off and that we’ll see the Tipperary team that romped home in last season’s All Ireland title race exhibiting their prowess again and justifying their tag as favourites again.

Cork captain, sterling defender Stephen McDonnell has his own views on that theory as he looks forward to another showdown with the od foe.

“That’s all public perception, supporters and outside things like that. As far as I am concerned once the ball is thrown in next Sunday in Thurles anything can happen and that’s regardless of anything that went on before the game."

Cork and Galway are the only two sides to have beaten this Tipperary team since the start of last season’s Munster championship but again the Glen Rovers man believes that Cork’s win during the group stages of the league in Pairc Ui Rinn a few months ago will have no bearing on Sunday’s outcome.

“There’s a lot of ways of looking at that, we beat them in the league and at the end of the day that is what it is but I suppose that it does give the younger players on the team something to have beaten them before the championship.

“But, it was the league, the championship is a whole new ball game and whatever is going to happen will happen regardless of the fact that we beat them in the league.

“I don’t think that result will do much for us next Sunday, it’s irrelevant.’’ 

A number of young Cork players are likely to make their championship debut next Sunday having been introduced during the course of the Munster League and the national league and the Cork captain was queried on how you get for such an occasion, in other words does anything prepare some of these youngsters for such a high profile game.

“I suppose what prepares you for a Munster championship game is a willing to be uncomfortable, just turn up and being there.

“I reckon all the lads on our current championship squad are ready for this day, they would not be there otherwise.

“I remember my own first time coming out in Thurles against Tipperary like yesterday, I was marking Lar Corbett, he was Hurler of the Year the year.

“You are nervous and you just want the ball to be thrown in.

“ The build-up, that’s where it’s hard but once the game starts you come into the zone and that’s the way I would expect it to be for any of the lads on the team who haven’t played Munster senior championship hurling before.’’ 

And it is important too, he believes, that you don’t waste energy by playing the game in your head leading up to it.

“Yes, it’s one thing saying it but it’s another thing doing it. 

"My own experience when you are young is that it is hard not to think about it.

“In the build-up to big games now I tend to stay away from talking about it. 

"Hurling is there to be played, not to talked about.

“I leave my girlfriend do the talking now.’’ 

The Cork captain acknowledged that, despite the loss to Limerick in the national league quarter-final, the season had gone well enough, winning the Munster League, finishing second in a very tough Division 1A and the exposure of a high number of younger players to senior, inter-county hurling.

“Yes, it has been when you look at it like that. We have managed to build up a bit more consistency this time but, as I said, the championship is different.

“A lot of new, young players have come in and they have brought a lot of energy with them.

“We feed off that energy and they feed off our experience and the thing has come together quite well for us.

“It’s a bit like what it is in the Glen, you have the younger fellows, middle of the road and the older players, we are building that in Cork and it is going well.’’ 

So is there optimism in the camp prior to next Sunday despite the fact that Tipperary are the hot favourites in the eyes of nearly every pundit.

“I would not say that there is optimism or pessimism, nothing like that, we are going to Thurles after preparing very well and we are looking forward to the challenge.

“Tipperary are a good team, good forwards and we are aware of that but we are excited too.

“On a personal level, as a defender you want to be challenged, not go through the motions and I thrive on being challenged and trying to stop the force of the opposition.’’ 

Tipp’s demise at the hands of Galway took a lot of people by surprise and their tactics on the day worked a treat, would the Cork players have taken things on board from that game.

“That’s a management issue, they looked at that game, they look at a lot of games and we have great trust in them.

“As players it’s our job to get ourselves ready for the challenge and try to be in the best possible shape that we can.

“That’s very much it really."

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