HAVING the ‘hard to beat’ gene is invaluable for a team as it brings a two-fold benefit.
When a side has been through the mill and had to battle for a victory, it gives belief that it can be done again, no matter how perilous the situation. A prime instance of this was Manchester United under Alex Ferguson – they always believed that a goal would come and it usually did. Limerick hurlers seem to be the latest strong example.
The other side of the equation is that such an aura transmits itself and your opponents fear the surge and, even if they do forge ahead, they will never be truly comfortable, either.
In Tuesday night’s Bord Gáis Energy Munster U20HC semi-final, Cork trailed Tipperary by seven points, 1-13 to 0-9, as half-time approached but, prior to Tipp’s Kyle Shelly netting a consolation goal deep in second-half injury time, the Rebels had turned things around to such an extent that they led by seven.
It means a provincial final against Limerick in Páirc Uí Chaoimh next Wednesday but for Cork manager Pat Ryan, witnessing his team’s comeback capabilities once was more than enough.
“If you’re not at it straightaway, you’re going to be beaten,” he said.
“There are some great teams out there and if we start like that against Limerick, we won’t have an opportunity to come back in the second half.
“It just gives us a chance to go back in and hammer the lads a small bit, on effort, on attitude, on application. We know we’ve good hurlers in the squad, who want to play for Cork.
“Tipperary blew us away in the first half, they probably should have been up by a bit more. We just left the hurl too easy, we didn't get stuck into them, we didn't put our bodies on our line. We were hunting in ones, they were hunting in threes and fours. We just asked the lads to give us that effort in the second half and see where it took us.
"Look, they come from great clubs and great families, they had pride in that jersey ever before they came to us but we are trying to exaggerate it a small bit effort all the time with them and look I thought they put in a savage second-half performance.
“Our subs off the bench again were absolutely superb. Fellas are disappointed when they are not playing, to see that attitude out of fellas when they come on, where they work hard, get scores, and make right decisions and unselfish decisions, that's what we are asking them to do all the time.”
Given that Cork only won the 2020 All-Ireland title against Dublin on July 10, while Tipp began this year’s Munster campaign with an extra-time win over Waterford two days later, the lopsided first half could be classed as understandable, but Cork did actually lead early on before Max Hackett’s goal put Tipp in front.
“We started very well in the first four or five minutes, but they got a great goal,” Ryan said.
“That set us back on our haunches. In fairness to Tipperary, they just drove on and we put no pressure on them. If you leave Tipperary hurl, they have fantastic hurlers and they out-hurled us in that period.
“We were lucky to be only what we were down at half-time. We hunted more, we moved the ball faster and we had more movement inside in our full-forward line in the second half and our backs, it was great to see fellas control the air. We had some fantastic fielding by Joycey [Ciarán Joyce], Dáire O'Leary, Ethan [Twomey] and Eoin Downey – for an 18-year-old, just out of minor, I thought he gave a fantastic performance.”
Central to the Cork revival was midfielder Sam Quirke, who produced a tour de force that saw him win the man of the match award, leaving Ryan impressed.
“Sam was outstanding, he has been fantastic for us,” he said. “He played in lots of games for us with last year’s team and was on our panel all the time and fighting fierce hard to get in that squad.
“We knew that he was going to bring that on Tuesday because he was absolutely hopping.
“He comes from great stock, the Quirkes in Midleton, it means a lot to them and to him to represent Midleton and you could see that on Tuesday night with his performance.”