Cork hurlers must avoid trend where beaten All-Ireland finalists fall short

Rebels did well to get to the 2020 clash with Limerick in Croke Park but the manner of their loss is worrying looking forward
Cork hurlers must avoid trend where beaten All-Ireland finalists fall short

Cork players run out onto the pitch past Liam MacCarthy before the All-Ireland hurling final loss to Limerick. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

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. 

Cork’s Tim O’Mahony and Kyle Hayes of Limerick. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Cork’s Tim O’Mahony and Kyle Hayes of Limerick. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

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. 

They effectively stood still, while the other, hungrier teams leapfrogged them in terms of the pecking order.

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. 

Referee Fergal Horgan throws in the sliotar to start the Cork v Limerick All-Ireland. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Referee Fergal Horgan throws in the sliotar to start the Cork v Limerick All-Ireland. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

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:

2021 Waterford: Reached the All-Ireland semi-final, after a poor Munster Championship, before coming unstuck against the Limerick juggernaut.

2020 Kilkenny: Lost by four points to Waterford in the All-Ireland semi-final after beating Galway by two in the Leinster Final.

2019 Galway: Eliminated in the round-robin stage of the Leinster Championship.

2018 Waterford: Finished winless and bottom of the round-robin Munster championship.

2017 Kilkenny: 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.

2016 Galway: 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.

2015 Tipperary: 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.

2014 Cork: 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.

2013 Galway: 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.

2012 Tipperary: 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.

2011 Kilkenny: Champions, beating Tipp, their conquerors from the year before, by four points.

2010 Tipperary: 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.

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