THERE used to be a perception that Cork hurling teams loved going up to Semple Stadium, that it was a home from home and in the majority of cases they came away with the win.
What once might have been regarded as a field of dreams for them is turning into a bit of a nightmare, featuring some very poor failures, the latest one against a Clare looked upon as rank outsiders to reach the All-Ireland series before the Munster championship.
Not anymore and it’s their vanquished opponents Cork who are now staring elimination in the face. You are nearly into miracle territory now for the hurling summer to be extended.
In fact, as has already been stated, if Tipperary lose to Limerick next Sunday and Cork to Waterford the following Sunday, the meeting a week later of the archfoes would be a dead rubber. If that comes to pass it would be a case of how the once mighty have fallen, overtaken by the three counties they once lorded it over.
In many ways, it was a replica of the U20 clash a few days earlier between Cork and Tipperary when Tipp did all the damage in the opening 35 minutes so were able to manage the game well enough to see it through. Cork banged home a late goal in the U20 loss, like Darragh Fitzgibbon against the Banner, but they were both just token scores.
Clare simply hurled Cork off the pitch for the first 25 minutes, going 11 points up. Cork did get it back to six by the interval, and had it down to four at one stage, but Clare’s riposte to clear and present danger was to secure the necessary scores despite losing Ian Galvin to a red card. Cork made far too many elementary mistakes and failed to use the extra man.
In the end, there was just a brace of points between the teams but Clare were decisive winners, following up their rout of Tipp.
Cork, on the other hand, went into the game without any momentum at all on the back of two damaging losses to Waterford and Limerick. Their confidence levels could not have been too high and that was tellingly illustrated.
Clare had all the stars on show, from right corner-back Rory Hayes to Peter Duggan at the other end of the field. Tony Kelly’s exceptional qualities were always evident, Ryan Taylor, Shane O’Donnell and David Fitzgerald rifled over exquisite points, John Conlon was superb and Cork were left chasing the game.
The second-half effort was admirable but it still wasn’t going to be enough. When quite a few of your starting 15 struggle, it is imperative that you have the resources to come in and make an impact, like the Limerick and Waterford subs do.
Cork don’t have that depth. Alan Connolly was an exception, replacing Jack O’Connor early on. He certainly got stuck in and will be a starter in Walsh Park.
Patrick Horgan fought the good fight, delivered some fine points from open play but still does not receive the type of ball that he thrives on.
For all of Cork’s failings, almost all of the positives to take from the occasion belonged to Clare who will have the tar lifting off the roads around Cusack Park when Limerick and Waterford arrive. They are certainly delivering right now for Brian Lohan.
Of course, all is not lost yet for Cork but it has become a gargantuan task now to qualify.
If Cork loses out and summer is over in the month of May there will have to be a dramatic reassessment of the entire operation.
Next stop is Walsh Park, an intimidating venue at the best of times and Waterford will be needing a victory to get back on track after losing to Limerick.
So, no matter how you view it, it’s not a pretty picture where Kieran Kingston’s men are concerned.
It certainly has been a very bad week for Cork on all fronts, out of the Munster U20 hurling and football championships and now on the edge of the precipice at senior hurling level.