Cork v Waterford: Focus is on giving a performance says Kieran Kingston

“It’s our last game, it happens to be a league final and we’re approaching it the same way as we did all the others."
Cork v Waterford: Focus is on giving a performance says Kieran Kingston

Cork manager Kieran Kingston during last Saturday's Allianz HL semi-final against Kilkenny at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

WHILE there is a national title up for grabs – what would be Cork’s first in 17 years – the mantra in the camp ahead of tonight’s Allianz HL final is that it’s just another game.

The county hasn’t won an All-Ireland since 2005 and the wait for a league title goes back to 1998. It was Waterford that Cork beat on that occasion and the Déise are the opposition again this evening in FBD Semple Stadium (7.15pm).

It’s a second final in a row that Cork have reached but, while they failed to perform in last August’s All-Ireland decider against a rampant Limerick, manager Kieran Kingston isn’t framing the game in terms of needing to atone.

“No, we haven’t spoken about that,” he says.

“The question was asked of me at the start of the league, that the Clare game was our first competitive match since the All-Ireland final and how we were going to approach it.

“The bottom line is that we can’t change anything that happened seven or eight months ago. We did a review and I said at the start of the year that we weren’t looking back because it wasn’t the direction that we were going. Nothing has changed in that regard."

Cork come into the game on the back of last week’s semi-final win at home to Kilkenny, where an early six-point deficit was wiped out before they went on to win by four. Trying to avoid the slow start is something that will be targeted tonight.

The key thing for Kingston though is that a win was ultimately achieved – a fifth from six league games to date, with the dead rubber in Wexford the only defeat.

“We’ve looked at that [the start of the Kilkenny game], of course,” he says.

The league is all about consistency and it’s something that we’ve been criticised for in the past, that Cork are inconsistent.

“It’s about consistency from game to game and I think we’re showing a lot of that this year, which is great.

“We’re an evolving group. It’s a young group in the main, bar a few senior players, and that’s good to see. Looking back at every game, there have been different reasons for whatever.

“We had a lot of niggles going into last weekend, we had guys that were being rested for different reasons, and I think it just took a bit of time to get up to the pace. Kilkenny obviously had a very tough game against Waterford the previous weekend, we were missing a few players – some rested, some forced on us – against Wexford, so it had been a few weeks since players had a really competitive game.

“Kilkenny came out of the blocks at a high intensity and, again, we expected that – going back to the All-Ireland semi-final last year, they were certainly not coming down to Cork for a challenge match and we know that they’re a serious team.

“They proved it again last weekend – we never led until the 63rd or 64th minute.”

CHALLENGERS

The game is a meeting of the last two beaten All-Ireland finalists, with Waterford also seen as one of the likelier challengers to Limerick’s crown this year. The counties will meet in the Munster SHC in Walsh Park on May 15 but that won’t have a bearing tonight.

“We’re taking the game on its own merits,” Kingston says. “It’s our last game, it happens to be a league final and we’re approaching it the same way as we did all the others.

“Once the league is over, the reset button is pressed and it’s championship time.

“The league has been good to us, obviously. It’s the last game, no matter what happens. You’re in a final and you want to perform, of course you do, but again, from our perspective, we’re approaching it the same as we would have for the first league game.

“We want to be really competitive, put in a really good performance and see where that takes us. The fact that it happens to be a final is not something that we’re speaking about.”

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