Taking the lessons from the defeat to Limerick in the Allianz HL in June will be an important part of Cork’s preparation for tomorrow night’s Munster SHC semi-final against the All-Ireland champions.
The Rebels face the Shannonsiders in Semple Stadium in Thurles at 7pm tomorrow night, aiming to show that the eight-point loss in the LIT Gaelic Grounds wasn’t a true reflection of the sides’ standing. Cork manager Kieran Kingston feels that that defeat can be instructive for his side.
“There’s a lot we can take from it, yeah!” he laughed.
“Obviously, as I said after the game, the championship will be determined by who has taken the most from the league game and the most from the league campaign.
“We would like to think that we learned a lot that night and learned a lot from the campaign. The games you lose, you probably learn more from and it’s about whether we can take it on to the field next Saturday night.
“The first half against Limerick was very poor, no question about that, and the last ten minutes against Galway, which cost us. Other than that, I would have said that the league was very good for us.
“We used over 30 players, we gave game-time to as many players as we possibly could while trying to keep our shape and keep the performance at a certain level. Even in the game against Galway, we brought on five forwards in the last 20, 25 minutes to give them game-time – I’m not saying for a second that that was the reason we lost our shape a bit, but it was great to see we got so many players on the field even in that game.”
Limerick have won two of the last three All-Irelands and are the antepost championship favourites. When they met Cork in the 2018 All-Ireland semi-final, it was a game that the Rebels could have won but since then John Kiely’s side have moved to another level and Kingston is well aware of their capabilities.
“Nobody knows what might have happened if Cork had won,” he said, “but you have to give credit to Limerick for what they have done.
“They’re unlucky not to have three All-Irelands in a row, to be fair to them. They’ve won two national leagues, two Munster championships, they’ve been there and worn the t-shirt and done it really, really well.
“They’ve had that 19, 20 players and they play to a system, everybody that’s introduced fits into that system really well, they know what each other’s doing and what the team is supposed to do.
“They’ve stuck to it and the attitude is, ‘If you’re good enough to beat me, come and beat me,’ and over the last couple of years, few teams have been good enough. Hats off to them and we’d all like to be in that position.”
Kingston leads a high-powered management team that also features Dónal O’Grady, Diarmuid O’Sullivan and Ger Cunningham, but there is no fear of too many cooks spoiling the broth.
“Obviously, my job as manager, at the end of the day the buck stops with me,” Kingston says.
“Whoever gets credit when you win, the manager gets blamed when you lose. That’s the way it is and everybody knows that – there has to be somebody to have a cut off!
“There can only be one manager, there can only be one guy’s name on the door, there can only be one guy calling the shots. I’m lucky to have guys with me who have done it on the field and off the field, they’ve done it and they have huge experience.
“Diarmuid has been around Cork hurling now for the last number of years with myself; I’ve operated as selector, coach and manager; Ger has done it in different counties; Dónal has obviously done it in Cork and other counties.
“The key thing for me bringing any of those guys in is how well they can work together as a group. It’s not individuals, it’s about what we can do for Cork.
“Each person that’s in the group – and we have a backroom of 22 people – is there for only one reason and that’s what they can give for Cork hurling.”