IS this the start of a new dawn for Cork?
First All-Ireland hurling title in a long time.
Are things going to get better now because remember the last time Cork won this title? It was U21 then, 23 years ago, and we all know what happened after that. All those players went on to become household names, not alone in Cork but all over the country.
So the team that won on Saturday evening have a lot to live up to. And if they can be half as successful as the team of 1998, then the future for Cork hurling will be bright.
As we all know, once Cork start winning it can be very hard to stop them.
Now these players can go on and know that they can be successful, and they know what it takes at this level anyway, but to step up to senior is always tough. Players can't get carried away either and have to keep themselves grounded. To get to the top takes fierce hard work.
One man has to take great credit here and that man is Pat Ryan.
Pat is the most unassuming man you could meet, but a real hurling man, no bluffing here, just down to earth, and his team reflected that on the field. No-nonsense approach, working hard all over, getting the basics right, and playing the Cork way.
That is what Pat has brought to this team because that is the way he does things himself. How you judge any good guy is by the success he has had, and Pat has had that with his club Sarsfields and now with this Cork team.
The sure sign of any good manager is the people he surrounds himself with, and he did that very well with his management team of Donal O'Mahony, Brendan Coleman, Fergal Condon and Wayne Sherlock.
These are the guys behind this team and were responsible for getting them ready for battle, and when you hear a guy like Wayne Sherlock talking before the game and after on TG4, you could see why Cork were successful. Wayne came across very well and had complete belief in what they were doing. And of course, Wayne was one of the great players for Cork and he has brought that into management as well.
Fergal Condon has been very successful winning three championships in a row with Imokilly, no mean feat with a divisional team.
So having these guys in the dressing room, players can really look up to them with the height of respect, because they have done it.
Cork started this game in typical Cork fashion, playing very direct hurling, and with the half-back line of Daire Connery, Kieran Joyce and Daire O'Leary, and midfielders Tommy O'Connell and Brian Roche, giving the supply in, fast, early ball. It had Dublin in all sorts of trouble, and with Padraig Power and Alan Connolly and especially Shane Barrett, Cork were really motoring, and they never stopped.
I was very impressed with their directness of play, but the most important thing of all was how they performed as a team.
You have to say Pat Ryan and his management team had them really ready for battle. This was not a bad Dublin team they were up against, but Cork made them look very ordinary in the first 20 min of this game.
In fairness to Dublin, they came back into it, as we knew they would, but you must say Cork were not going to let this game go, with their appetite for the ball.
Cork supporters have not had much to sing about in the last few years, and no better crowd to sing when they do, they like to celebrate success and rightly so. I'd say they will be very proud of this team and the way they played, the manliness they showed, the pride they had in the jersey, and the way they fought for it, put their bodies on the line when needed, and showed character when Dublin came back at them.
I'm sure some of these players will go on to play senior for Cork in the future, but they need all that and more to achieve at the top level.
Dublin can't be forgotten either. They kept battling to the end and players like Andrew Dunphy, Kevin Burke, Darragh Power, and especially the three forwards of Michael Murphy, Liam Murphy and Dara Purcell, who threatened all night. Dublin have some future senior stars coming as well. They will be disappointed with the result, but they have had a fairly successful year as well, and well deserved.
The three top players I took out of this game were Padraig Power, Shane Barrett and especially Brian Roche, he has some engine, the workhorse of the team.
A good night overall for Cork at last.