FOR the opening 20-odd minutes in Thurles last Saturday evening, the Cork hurlers were tackling with enough intensity, and moving the sliotar with enough purpose, to suggest an upset could be on the cards.
Limerick, All-Ireland champions and justifiable favourites for ultimate glory again, weren’t hurling with their usual accuracy and aggression. Then came a harsh sin-bin for Peter Casey, a missed penalty by Patrick Horgan — as unlikely an occurrence as a Leesider cheering on England in the Euro final — and Cork lost their rhythm. Limerick gritted their teeth and forged ahead.
Two avoidable goals in the dying embers of the first half left Cork, the better side up to then, six points down. They battled away in the second half, without really ever looking like winning, and the fallout from the loss has led to another week of pondering about the ‘what-ifs’ for Rebels.
Cork GAA fans are sick of near-misses and close calls.
Before then, three Cork teams are in action today. The footballers are up in Limerick, expected to progress to a Munster final away to Kerry or Tipperary. History points to Ronan McCarthy’s side moving into the provincial final; they last lost to Limerick in 2003. Between injuries and the Treaty’s excellent showing in the league, and more recently in beating Waterford, Cork can’t afford any complacency.
With no back-door, the pressure is on.
It’ll be a similar story at Nowlan Park tonight, where the U20 hurlers meet Dublin in a delayed All-Ireland final from 2020. It’s win or bust.
Cork’s record in underage hurling deciders is poor, being without a title in this grade since 1998, having fallen short in the last two finals.
The team is loaded with talent, including Shane Barrett and Alan Connolly, who appeared for the seniors last weekend at Semple Stadium. The U17 All-Ireland four years ago featured the same sides, but Cork certainly didn’t have it all their own way against Dublin that day. Pat Ryan’s young guns should win, but will they? The county needs them to win.
The Cork ladies’ footballers take on Meath in the first round of the All-Ireland round-robin series this afternoon as well. The Royals have come up from the intermediate ranks and Cork will be expected to be too strong.
In the league, Ephie Fitzgerald guided his group to a final, but they fell short, yet again, to nemesis Dublin. The concern is the damage that repeated losses to the Dubs could have.
Then again, to be beaten in a final you have to get to one in the first place. If only the hurlers and footballers were getting to the big stage as often.
Cork v Limerick in the Munster football semi-final, 3pm, is available only on the GAAGo App.
Cork v Meath in the ladies football series, 2pm, is on the TG4 player.
Cork v Dublin in the U20 hurling All-Ireland, is live on TG4, throw-in 7.15pm.
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