Tony Considine: Cork hurling fans now eyeing bigger prize ahead

Young Rebels will revel in Croke Park but Kilkenny will be by far their toughest test yet
Tony Considine: Cork hurling fans now eyeing bigger prize ahead

ON THE BALL: Cork's Robbie O'Flynn in action against James Madden of Dublin. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

A LOT of Cork hurling people will be very happy after this week! 

Any Cork people I talked to, despite the fantastic Olympic gold from the Skibbereen duo, were fully focused on the hurling otherwise. They are getting very confident again and with good reason. With the minors, U20s and senior teams winning, a powerful red wave seems to be on the way. 

The supporters are getting louder and full of expectation. It has been a while since this optimism has been around Leeside sport in general, but especially around the hurlers.

But of course, with expectation comes pressure and Kieran Kingston and his management team will have to manage the pressure and keep the players completely focused at what lies ahead. The challenges are getting higher the further they go, and no greater challenge than the Black and Amber quietly waiting in the wings.

This game against Dublin was going to be tricky for Cork. The hard game they had against Clare last week had taken a lot out of them, and tiredness was going to set in at some stage. It did in the third quarter here when Cork seemed to make mistakes.

The only thing was this Dublin team were not able to take advantage of that. Even early on, Dublin were very much on top with Donal Burke and Ronan Hayes causing problems for Robert Downey but didn't make it count, missing some easy chances of goals. 

Downey recovered very well later to have a very good game, as did the rest of the Cork defenders. They cannot afford to be like this against better opposition, and better players when full advantage will be taken.

Tim O'Mahony was having great success and his goal was a big turning point in this game, but I think the man that really got Cork going was the man from Gortroe, Seamus Harnedy. Harnedy was back to his best getting some great scores and more importantly, making some great scores. 

His movement was excellent and it is good for Cork that he is back to full fitness. He is a great leader of this team, and along with Patrick Horgan, they are very important with all their experience and know-how. Also, Darragh Fitzgibbon worked really hard. His direct running was causing all sorts of problems for Dublin.

Luke Meade does a lot of the donkey work. He ran himself to a standstill, the same as he did against Clare. He is bringing a lot of consistency to his play now. 

But the man who the supporters want to see most on the ball now is Jack O'Connor. 

There is a real buzz in the crowd when he gets the ball, and when he gets his jet-propelled engine going it is great to watch. 

He seems to lift the crowd and the team as well. He is maturing into a fine player but must develop is his vision, that will come with experience.

Cork's Jack O'Connor causes real problems with his pace and skill. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Cork's Jack O'Connor causes real problems with his pace and skill. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

He is a real goal threat for them. Defenders will be marking him tightly but that is not easy to do with the pace he has. I think he could even be a better player in Croke Park.

Like a lot of these Cork players, the bigger the pitch, the better they will get.

The one thing I like about this Cork group is they are playing very well as a team, great support play for each other. Everyone seems to know what they have to do, and their strategy is working very well. 

Patrick Collins has really improved since the first championship match against Limerick. His puck-outs are very good, and while he didn't have any shots to stop, he was still very alert. He can go long or short and seems to find his target all the time.

Dublin's Cian Boland in action against Niall O'Leary of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Dublin's Cian Boland in action against Niall O'Leary of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

Niall O'Leary and Sean O'Donoghue are very solid in defence. O'Donoghue especially is having a great year. 

Ger Millerick does his Job very efficiently and seems to be a good man marker. I know Cork are playing a lot of games week after week, but I believe that is very good for the young players, and apart from Harnedy and Horgan, this is really a very young team. 

When you are young and winning, tiredness can go away very fast. Energy is easy to find, and Cork will need all that for what lies ahead.

Another thing I have noticed, and it happened last week against Clare, is they allowed Dublin to stay with them. You just have to keep going and keep the foot on their throat, because as we all know in a hurling game anything can happen. 

This is something Kieran Kingston will have to keep reminding his players of, no matter how far ahead they are, they just have to keep getting scores and not allow the opposition any chance to come back. That is what all good teams do. I'm sure management is aware of that. 

It is a great thing to develop in your team. That is the mental side of the game.

I'm sure Cork are looking forward to going to Croke Park, as are the supporters if they can get tickets, which will be as scarce as hens' teeth. 

I'm sure Kieran would have taken this at the start of the year: an All Ireland semi-final, and more experience for this young developing team, but more about that later in the week.

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