John Arnold: I'm not sure if Cork can come again after watching Limerick dominate hurling in 2020

John Arnold: I'm not sure if Cork can come again after watching Limerick dominate hurling in 2020

Limerick captain Declan Hannon during his acceptance speech after the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Limerick and Waterford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

CORK hurling can come again overnight - like the mushroom, you might say. But whereas the mushroom fades, Cork GAA never fades and dies.

I was thinking of those words last Sunday night as I travelled down the motorway on my home from Croke Park. 

Since I first set foot in the hallowed ground of Croke Park on a September Sunday in 1972 I've been lucky enough to have been back twice nearly every year since. 

Including replays there have been 51 hurling Finals and to the best of my knowledge I was at 48 of those- 49 if one includes last Sunday, all in Croke Park bar the Thurles centenary Final of 1984.

Cork were defeated by Kilkenny in 1972 but since then I've seen Liam McCarthy 'come home' in 1976, '77, '78, '84, '86, '90, '99 and in 2004 and 2005.

The opening sentence was uttered by the legendary Cork trainer Jim 'Tough' Barry in Joe Dignam's in the autumn of 1966. 

Cork, after an absence of 12 years, had won the All-Ireland Final and Barry was in conversation with great hurling writer Raymond Smith. 

Literally out of nowhere Cork came back into the hurling limelight and many of the 1966 team won further honours in 1970 and on the three in a row team of the 1970's. 

After watching Limerick's powerful display of hurling last Sunday I'm not so sure if the 'Cork Mushroom' theory still holds true. 

I know down the years we've often seen great hurling teams winning and the day after the game the papers are full of reports that 'they could win four or five' -Kilkenny in the last half century are the only team to fulfil those expectations. 

Last Sunday's December decider was no classic but Limerick certainly 'kept the best wine 'til last' in terms of complete hurling performances. 

Waterford did their best but were simply never allowed to reach the tempo at which they played in the second half against Kilkenny -other pundits will now question how good are the present Kilkenny side?

Since 1972 I've seen some great games and great hurlers with brilliant teams. 

As a selector I'd be brutal and as a tactician even worse. Maybe because I never played the game to any great extent I'm not a good 'reader' of hurling matches but that doesn't in one iota lessen my love of the game. 

Kilkenny have been a constant all through the years but in reality I think I have witnessed the 'Golden Age of hurling. 

Growing up and going to big games in the 1970's only Cork, Kilkenny and Tipp were tipped for the hurling annually and then Tipp had their 'famine.' 

The football championship was more unpredictable whereas nowadays it's the reverse situation. 

John Arnold was working with Bartlemy based TVM in Croke Park on All Ireland Hurling Sunday. TVM provide the cameras and Outside Broadcsat facilities for major sporting events in Ireland and overseas)
John Arnold was working with Bartlemy based TVM in Croke Park on All Ireland Hurling Sunday. TVM provide the cameras and Outside Broadcsat facilities for major sporting events in Ireland and overseas)

At the start of this concise Hurling championship anyone of eight counties -five from Munster plus Kilkenny, Wexford and Galway had realistic ambitions of December Hurling glory. 

After last Sunday what does the future hold? 

For Limerick the omens are good. For the first time since the Mick Mackey era there's a group of Limerick men who possess two All-Ireland Senior Hurling medals. 

The age profile of the panel of players Shannon-side is just in the mid 20's -they'll probably be at their peak in two or three years time. 

They have a down to earth manager in John Kiely and a management/training/coaching set-up second to none. 

I can recall the speeches of Joe Connolly and Sean Og and others down the decades -rousing speeches delivered to a delirious crowd in Croke Park on September evenings. 

This year was different because of covid. 

Who would have envisaged massive, magnificent hurling games from October to December played in empty stadia- no one, but that's what we had -simply super hurling. 

If ever a captain leads and speaks by example than Declan Hannon from Adare ticked all the boxes. 

I was pitch side when he spoke -and speaking in splendid isolation to no one except the winning and losing fans is no easy task. 

He encapsulated what hurling means to this Limerick squad, to their clubs and county and to the nation as a whole. 

The hurling lit up our tough year and hopefully will do so forever. 

So now we've had All-Ireland Hurling Finals in September and August -may the Lord preserve our traditions and save us from Finals in July!

Truly we were blessed with the superb games of our native sport over the last few months and I hope if one lesson is learned it will be to forget about Round Robins, Super 8's and the like and have a championship structure replicated on this years template.

As for Cork without a Senior Hurling All Ireland since 2005 - well hope springs eternal but hope just like the 'mushroom' theory won't win Titles anymore, for Cork or for anyone. 

Looking at the sheer physical strength and power of the Limerick hurlers at present is frightening. 

It's not that hurling had become a more physical game -no, sure in fact hip to hip battles, overhead pulling and ground hurling are now rarities. 

The big change I see is the athleticism of Limerick and their coaching skills are honed to the utmost. 

Personally, I think inter county hurling and football are gone far beyond the realms of 'amateur sport' but the GAA seems to see no end in sight to what demands are made on our top players. 

So if you can't beat 'em join 'em. 

When we won successive Munster championships a few short years ago I thought we were on the cusp of a breakthrough but now we seem farther away rather than closer to the Holy Grail. 

It's not for lack of effort or inputs but the question must be asked is Cork Hurling at Senior level gone too 'soft'?

Limerick’s Declan Hannon and Peter Casey celebrate winning the All Ireland Hurling Final
Limerick’s Declan Hannon and Peter Casey celebrate winning the All Ireland Hurling Final

I'm not advocating dirty or rough house tactics but we must be able to compete physically with the Limericks of this world. 

All the talk is of 'upper body strength' and the ability to give and take tackles. 

In the All-Ireland Final I wouldn't go so far ass to say that Limerick 'blew Waterford away' but by heavens they just powered past their opponents all over the pitch. 

Cork need to b able to do that on a consistent basis. 

Some hurling fans claim that Limerick are a cynical side, more say they hurl 'close to the edge' and have got away with a lot of tactics of a dubious nature. 

As I said I'm a hurling fan but no expert. Limerick are National League, Munster and All-Ireland champions for 2020. Well done to them.

More in this section

Sponsored Content