If Cork are seeking inspiration ahead of their Munster SHC clash with Clare at FBD Semple Stadium on Sunday week, they might look back three years.
Having won the previous two Munster titles – an eight-game stretch taking in what we thought was the last knockout edition and then the first round-robin – John Meyler’s side came back to earth with a seven-point loss at home to Tipperary in their first 2019 outing.
Next up was the sizeable task of a trip to Limerick to face the newly-minted All-Ireland champions just a week later. Forgive the self-promotion but in the newly published Cork Hurling: Game of My Life, Daniel Kearney recalls the lead-up to that trip Shannonside.
“In the old back-door system, there might have been a few weeks to regroup before the qualifier match after losing in Munster,” he said, “but in the round-robin you just had to dust yourself down to go again and I think that there are positives and negatives to that, but the good outweighs the bad.
“You have to decompress straightaway and rebuilding the confidence, individually and as a group, can be very hard. Then, at the same time, that challenge gives you the opportunity to make wrongs right and use the next match as a chance to prove yourself. That’s what’s brilliant about the new system.
“I remember that week, going to Brookfield, down by UCC, where we used to do our recovery – physical but also mental in terms of recapping the game. We were back in on the Monday to do the pool-work and the stretching, making sure the bodies were right to go again the following week, and then there was the breaking down of the Tipp game to allow us to go straight into planning for Limerick.
“You’re up against two different styles and the way you set up and implement your plan is going to be different, the same with match-ups and man-marking. It’s all very quick and urgent but maybe there’s a value in not being able to give them so much time and so much respect – sometimes, you’ve too much time to focus on the opposition and that can be a bad thing. You’ve all that type of stuff at play.
“With the turnaround, there’s no time to be killing fellas’ confidence – it’s the opposite, you need to be building fellas up, and that’s where the dynamic of a good management team comes in. Their skills kick in in terms of how to get players to bounce back, get the confidence up and produce the optimal performance next time.”
In one sense, it’s a pity that Cork can’t turn and face into another game this coming weekend, but the second round of fixtures is their ‘bye week’ and so they will sitting out as Limerick face Waterford on Saturday night and Tipp clash with Clare on Sunday.
As manager Kieran Kingston said when asked on Sunday evening, having two weeks might be better for Cork to prepare for the Clare clash in Thurles on May 1.
The last two matches, against Waterford in the league final and Limerick on Sunday, have resulted in an aggregate score of 1-40 scored but 6-45 conceded. What will have been disappointing on Sunday was that so many of the concessions came from turnovers, most notably the second Limerick goal.
However, Cork did manage to wipe out that four-point half-time deficit only for Limerick to dominate again and that is something just as important to work on.
“Coming up to half-time the match is a draw, you are in possession, you work it out and the guy who you’ve left loose isn’t being marked by the fella coming out and all of a sudden the ball is turned over and it’s in the back of the net,” said Kingston.
“That happens when you are playing that game working it out. It was absolutely frustrating, of course it is, no question, because you are in control of the ball and in control of the game to a degree. Get to half-time, couple of points in it either way and you’ve a chance.
“And even at four points, the game certainly wouldn’t be gone and we didn’t think it was at half-time. I think we showed that, but it’s from that ten minutes into the second half for the next 15-18 minutes or so they seemed to take over control of the game, and that’s where the game was lost in my view.”