John Horgan: Cork hurlers' league win hinted at a promising summer

'We saw in 2020 the importance of building up momentum ahead of championship'
John Horgan: Cork hurlers' league win hinted at a promising summer

Cork manager Kieran Kingston watches Tim O'Mahony collect the sliotar against Waterford. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

NOT bad for starters. 

That would have to be the best summation of Cork’s victory over Waterford. Everything must be kept in perspective, in the first outing in five months for both counties.

By the same token, Cork went into this game on the back of two losses to their opponents last season and that sequence needed to be arrested.

The teams collided in the opening game of the competition too in 2020 and to set the trend for what was to follow.  Waterford went on to reach the All-Ireland final, Cork were eliminated by Tipperary in the qualifiers.

So, the good start then for Waterford proved to be half the battle. From a Cork viewpoint, they’ll be hoping that the story might be something similar this time.

There was much to admire about the Cork performance in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Sunday.

First and foremost was the result and secondly the tally of scores accumulated by the home team. A return of 5-22 is damn good scoring, the goals, of course, all-important. 

In total, you had 10 different scorers and the five goals were delivered by four different players. True, three of the goals arrived in the game’s closing minutes but does that matter when they are converted.

A few of them were sumptuously taken, the opener, in particular, exquisitely executed by Robbie O’Flynn after splendid approach work by Tim O’Mahony and Darragh Fitzgibbon. 

 Robbie O'Flynn at full tilt in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Robbie O'Flynn at full tilt in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

A brace of the goals were scored by sub Alan Connolly, the young Blackrock player on his senior debut will take heaps of confidence going forward from those.

Darragh Fitzgibbon split the posts with three fine points while the introduction of Shane Kingston gave Cork a far greater cutting edge. His goal was another gem.

To be successful now in what is a very competitive inter-county environment a depth in your squad is imperative, something that Limerick have shown lately.

We saw evidence of that again in the Gaelic Grounds when John Kiely went to his bench at a time when it looked like Tipperary were on their way to what would have been an important victory for them given recent results between the two counties.

Cork cannot match that depth of resources yet but maybe they will be a lot closer this time, only time will tell. On Sunday, two of the subs shared three goals between them.

On the not-so-positive side, Waterford ended up with a tally of 1-27, a return that would be good enough to win a lot of games. After all, Limerick and Tipp only managed 20 points apiece. At times last Sunday, the play was very open and going forward games will become much tighter.

Cork goalkeeper Patrick Collins pucks out the ball. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork goalkeeper Patrick Collins pucks out the ball. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

All the starting six Cork forwards scored and that is something that we need to see a lot more often and not the overreliance on Patrick Horgan to secure the vast majority of the scores. Horgan delivered clinically from the placed ball of course and was denied twice from raising a green flag.

The importance of the free-taker was in evidence again, with Tipperary a lot more reliant on Jason Forde in their draw with Limerick. In fact, they did not score from play at all in the second half in the Gaelic Grounds.

Niall O’Leary had a fine outing in the Cork defence, Tim O’Mahony impressed too and rifled over two fine points for an extra measure of positivity. 

Despite the concession of 1-27, there was a greater aggressiveness to Cork’s defending at times and that will determine a lot when the big championship questions are posed.

Young Shane Barrett from Blarney will have reason to be pleased with his first full senior competitive outing, hitting 0-2.

Waterford were minus some key players and the long-term absence of Tadhg de Búrca could be a huge factor for them. Kieran Bennett and Austin Gleeson did fire over some quality points and they had worse wides than Cork.

Of course, at the end of the day the well-worn cliche has to come into play here and that is, that one swallow never made a summer. But you must start somewhere and this was a positive start for Kieran Kingston’s team. 

Waterford certainly built on the league in 2020. Limerick showed the way in that regard, with multiple wins over Tipp and Waterford.

Now Cork have that early bit of momentum and it will be very important to try and maintain it. We’ll learn a bit more from the trip to Tipp next Saturday night.

For now though, a bit of room for very cautious optimism.

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