Close calls and near misses as Cork's hurling All-Ireland wait drags on

U20s have the chance to lift a major title when Covid restrictions end
Close calls and near misses as Cork's hurling All-Ireland wait drags on

Cork's Patrick Horgan shoots over the late point from Clare's Brendan Bugler that almost decided the 2013 All-Ireland hurling final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

IT’S the nature of sports coverage that we pay a lot of attention, perhaps too much, to the history books.

Human beings look for connections and patterns and the media are guiltier than most.

When we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the future, we can try to guide ourselves by looking at the past as the facts are clearly laid out.

The coming inter-county, whenever it takes place, could be a pivotal one in a sense as, if Cork were not to win the All-Ireland senior hurling title, the stretch back to the last one, in 2005, would exceed any previous winless sequence.

Currently, the record is held with the period between 1903 and 1919.

It was interesting to note, however, that Cork hurling captain Patrick Horgan, speaking at the recent launch of the new jersey, was unaware of that state of affairs.

“Not at all,” he said, “I actually didn’t know until you just said.

“As players, that’s not something we can look into. We can never look into it.

“When you’re in the zone of playing and training every day, you’re only living for now. For your next training session.

“Thinking about stats like that and how long since Cork won the All-Ireland…that won’t help you win the All-Ireland. That’s far away from any players’ mind.

“The best way we can go about it is worry about today and tomorrow and next day. And leave the stats to other people.”

Well, for better or worse, the other people tend to be journalists, having to come up with ideas for content and then reminding everyone else about these various statistics and records.

When it comes to Cork hurling, it’s an unfortunate fact that, right now, the sequences without All-Irelands can be packaged so neatly – 15 years at senior level, 23 at U21/U20 and 19 at minor.

There have been close calls in the interim, not least the drawn 2013 All-Ireland final against Clare.

Had corner-back Domhnall O’Donovan not landed the point of his life to level in injury time for the Banner, Cork’s wait would have topped out at eight years.

There’s every chance that, given the confidence that comes with victory, Cork might have won again in the interim but, even if they didn’t – as Clare have not – we would only now be approaching the eight-year mark again.

Such is the way of these things. Until any or all of those records are eradicated, they will be cited, even though those playing minor or U20 now weren’t born the last time Cork won those grades (U21 rather than U20).

Of course, those current U20s could be the team to end that wait, though it feels like a bad joke that they are having to wait to play their All-Ireland final since winning the Munster decider on December 23.

They are not the only ones affected by the current global pandemic, obviously, but back they have already missed out on minor level as they were the team who turned 18 just as the GAA changed the grade to U17.

To compensate, a special U17 All-Ireland competition was run in 2017 as Cork triumphed in that, beating Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final and Dublin in the final.

As impressive as that was, it isn’t counted as a ‘proper’ All-Ireland – had they had the chance to play minor, then there is a good chance they would have ended what was at that stage a 17-year minor drought.

The form lines since then have held in that Cork, Dublin and Galway are again the last three teams left in the U20 grade.

The other pair will meet in the Leinster final when the green light is given for action to resume, with the winners taking on Pat Ryan’s Cork side for the national title.

Cork manager Pat Ryan celebrates with Eoin Carey. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Cork manager Pat Ryan celebrates with Eoin Carey. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Let’s hope that, after defeats to Tipperary in the last U21 final in 2018 and the first U20 decider in 2019, Cork can finally lift that millstone.

With one down, at least there would only be two more to worry about.

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