THOSE of us expecting Cork to use the loss of this year’s All-Ireland hurling final to Limerick as a springboard for victory in 2022 might want to think again, as the recent record of returning All-Ireland runner-ups does not inspire confidence.
The stats tell us that not one of the last ten All-Ireland runners-ups have gone on to lift the Liam McCarthy Cup the following year, with the great Kilkenny side of the noughties and early teens being the last to do it in 2011.
There are other older instances, of course, such as Tipp stopping the five-in-a-row effort by Kilkenny a year earlier, and Cork’s historic 2004 triumph over Kilkenny after losing to them 12 months earlier, but there are no recent examples.
We can theorise as to why this is the case. It might be just that these sides were ultimately not good enough, or perhaps losing on All-Ireland final Sunday leaves scars that take more than a year to heal.
Whatever the reasons Cork must realise quickly that there is no guarantee that they will be contenders come 2022. If anything, there will be a target on their back now. They certainly won’t be able to slip into the last four in the manner in which they did this year.
One of the reasons why these sides have probably failed in the past decade is that each and every one of them have probably assumed that they were very close to where they needed to be and so they failed to grow or adapt sufficiently enough the following year.
This must be the biggest lesson that Cork learns from this. Yes, reaching an All-Ireland final was progress, but the manner of the defeat cannot have left any illusions as to how far off Cork really were.
That in itself might be Cork’s greatest hope for next year, as things have to change. The defensive spine must be looked at again. Puck-out options must be found. Players with higher work-rates must be trialled.
See below a snapshot of how the beaten All-Ireland finalists have faired in the following campaign for the past twelve years, a trend that Cork will have to buck in 2022:
Reached the All-Ireland semi-final, after a poor Munster Championship, before coming unstuck against the Limerick juggernaut.
Lost by four points to Waterford in the All-Ireland semi-final after beating Galway by two in the Leinster Final.
Eliminated in the round-robin stage of the Leinster Championship.
Finished winless and bottom of the round-robin Munster championship.
Famously lost to Wexford by 1-20 to 3-11 in Leinster before almost more famously losing to Waterford for the first time in 61 years, when losing their All-Ireland qualifier tie in Thurles, by 2-27 to 2-23.
Tipp got full revenge from 12 months earlier, as this time it was the Premier county who emerged on the right side of a one-point victory, by 2-19 to 2-18.
Despite a brilliant display from Seamus Callinan, who rifled 3-9, they came up one point short in the All-Ireland semi-final, losing to Galway by 3-16 to 0-26.
An impressive Munster Championship victory appeared to herald the dawn of the coming of this Cork side, but they came unstuck badly in the All-Ireland semi-final against Tipp, losing by 2-18 to 1-11.
Having lost the 2012 final in a replay Galway failed to get out of second gear the following year, losing to eventual champions Clare by six in the quarter-final.
Well beaten in the All-Ireland semi-final by Kilkenny on a scoreline of 4-24 to 1-15, in a game that will always be remembered for the bizarre sight of Lar Corbett chasing Tommy Walsh around Croke Park, while Jackie Tyrell was busy following Corbett, in a bizarre ménage á trois.
Champions, beating Tipp, their conquerors from the year before, by four points.
Champions, beating five-in-a-row chasing Kilkenny by eight points, thanks to Lar Corbett’s hat-trick, after losing the ’09 final, which is considered by many as the greatest final ever, by five.