Cork manager Kieran Kingston felt that his team wasted a good opportunity to finish top of Division 1 Group A of the Allianz Hurling League as a Galway second-half fightback saw them take victory at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday.
Four minutes into the second half, Cork led by 2-13 to 0-12 but the visitors wound up winners on a scoreline of 3-25 to 2-23. If Cork – who began the day in third place – had won, they would have finished in first place in their section, with the possibility of a championship meeting with Kilkenny doubling as a league final but instead results elsewhere meant they were passed out by both Waterford and Limerick to finish fifth of six sides, albeit five points ahead of Westmeath.
Kingston admitted that the failure to secure the win was a disappointment, but pointed out that there were bright spots in the earlier part of the match, too.
“We’re disappointed because it was a game we wanted to win and thought we could have won – when you’re seven points up in a game, you’d like to think you can win it,” he said.
“That was disappointing because, as it turned out, we were playing for top spot in the league and it’s a while since we were in that position, so it was a game we wanted to win and we thought we were in a position to do so.
“In saying that, there were a lot of positives to take from two thirds of the game and we’ll take those away.”
The result means Cork finish the league with a record of two wins, a draw and a defeat, with the Galway loss following the eight-point reversal away to Limerick last weekend. While the fifth-placed finish perhaps masks the positives in the league as a whole, there is quite a lot of room for improvement ahead of a July 3 Munster SHC semi-final meeting with Limerick in Thurles.
“We played 10 halves of hurling,” Kingston said, “and we have to focus on those two and take the learnings from them, the first half against Limerick and the second half today.
“We’ll learn more from those two halves than the other eight.”
In terms of knowing his team for the meeting with the Munster, league and All-Ireland champions, Kingston says there are places up for grabs.
“It’s all to play for still,” he said.
“We’ve used a lot of players, in excess of 30, and we’ve injuries and bits and pieces to work through over the next three weeks, so we’re getting a sense of it.
“We’re nearly there, I’d say.”
Kingston, who confirmed that Douglas attacker Brian Turnbull has left the panel, is also hopeful for good news in terms of Colm Spillane’s return from a knee injury though Bill Cooper (Achilles) remains a doubt for the first championship game.
“Colm is back doing a bit of training,” he said. “We’ll monitor him over the next couple of weeks but Bill hasn’t resumed training yet. We’re expecting he’ll resume next week.
“Other than that, the rest of the lads are back. Niall O’Leary was missing today but he’ll be okay in about a week or so and Alan Cadogan came back from injury.”