CORK hurling manager Kieran Kingston lamented his team’s poor start as defeat to Clare left the Rebels on the verge of a championship exit.
Two points was the difference in the end at FBD Semple Stadium but the Banner were superior throughout, especially a period in the opening half-hour where they outscored Cork by 0-14 to 0-2.
It left Cork with too big a task to turn around.
“We had a bad start,” Kingston said. “We were playing into a breeze in the first half, had a very poor start. We were really nervous in the first 20 minutes and we made some simple, elementary mistakes. That was disappointing because you give a team the calibre of Clare, you saw it last week, that lead and try and work it back, you’re always struggling.
“You’re giving yourself an uphill battle and I think that’s the way it turned out today. We had a good run coming up to half-time, won that quarter seven points to three, and put ourselves in a position at half-time that we maybe we get something out of this. They got the first two scores after half-time and you’re fighting it again for the rest of the half.
“But we have to hold our hands up, on the day we were beaten by the better team, no question about that. I’m not going to make any excuses for that.”
Early on, Cork looked to be playing without confidence and, while that did return to some extent after Alan Connolly’s 48th-minute goal, the Rebels were unable to take advantage of Clare’s Ian Galvin being sent off.
Instead, the Banner scored the next three points to move seven ahead again and, though Darragh Fitzgibbon’s late goal left two in it, Cork didn’t have enough time to come up with anything to secure an improbable turnaround.
Allied to the Allianz Hurling League final loss to Waterford in Thurles a month ago and the opening championship defeat to Limerick in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, it’s three defeats in a row for Cork and Kingston acknowledged that the morale had suffered.
“You get to an All-Ireland final, as we did a year ago, there wasn't any expectation around the group,” he said.
“You lose it, obviously, and you have a good league campaign and you get to another final, I think expectation increases among everyone and that's understandable. With that comes plaudits when you win and criticism when you lose. We all know that that comes with the territory and you know that because you are writing it, or getting people to write it.
"I thought we showed a bit of nervousness on the back of that, definitely in the first 20 minutes and on the scoreboard, 11 points down at one stage with 14 minutes to go. I know there was a wind but there wasn't that much of a wind.”
Now, the task for the team and management is to conjure a response for the game against Waterford in Walsh Park on May 15.
“We can only control what is in front of us,” Kingston said.
“We can change what happened today or the last day. We've lost control of our own destiny.
“At the end of the day, players are representing Cork in two weeks’ time in Walsh Park. It's a big game, it's a four-game round-robin and we expect that they represent that jersey in a proper manner when we go there irrespective of the league final. We can't control that.
“We can only control what's going on in that game in two weeks’ time as best as we can. I will continue as I always have done in this job to give it my heart and soul as long as we have something to play for and games to play representing Cork hurling."