John Horgan on hurling: Cork must do their talking on the pitch in Waterford

Rebels haven't got a great record in Walsh Park but now they've to somehow dig out a result or face elimination 
John Horgan on hurling: Cork must do their talking on the pitch in Waterford

Cork’s Robert Downey and Domhnall McMahon of Clare exchange words. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

SO, now it all comes down to 70 minutes of hurling for Cork at Walsh Park.

And if Cork don't come away with the victory, the months that will follow will be very bleak ones for all Leeside hurling lovers. A week later there would be that trip to Thurles where only pride would be at stake for both.

Let’s not be too negative, Cork might be down in the aftermath of the losses to Limerick and Clare but they remain in the reckoning for a third-placed finish in the provincial series. If that came to pass, the hurling Summer could take on a different dimension altogether.

Waterford are perceived to be the main challenger to Limerick’s aspirations of lifting the MacCarthy Cup for the third year running. That would be a phenomenal achievement but that’s for another day.

Cork will carry the underdog tag, a team under all sorts of pressure. But let’s not forget that Waterford are under pressure too after their loss to Limerick.

Just as there used to be a perception of Cork’s liking for Thurles as a venue, the opposite is the case with Walsh Park. That all goes back to the '60s and '70s when Cork lost twice to the home county and to this day that perception has remained.

Let’s be sensible about this, a venue never won or lost a game for a county. Yes, playing in front of your home support can be beneficial but I don’t hold with the theory that it’s worth a three- or four-point start.

Cork are now getting one shot, last-chance saloon. Up to now, they have simply not been good enough against Limerick and Clare.

Cork improved after a very slow start against Clare but this problem has been going on for too long now, something Kieran Kingston has often remarked about, Cork’s inconsistency.

Games are not won in 30, 40 or 50 minutes, certainly not Munster senior hurling championship games. For the bones of an hour last Sunday, Tipperary were every bit as good as Limerick if not better but still lost by seven.

Yes, Tipp might have deserved better but Limerick reminded us why they're on course for three in a row.

Tipp went to the Gaelic Grounds armed with a lot more intensity and attitude than had been the case in their earlier defeats to Waterford and Clare. Cork must now travel with that same attitude on Sunday, no repeat of what transpired in the opening half against Clare.

And Waterford have the players to inflict similar damage: Dessie Hutchinson, Stephen Bennett, Aussie Gleeson just for starters. 

In all their recent games of real significance, Cork have not had enough players performing to the levels that are required on these types of days. In some instances, you could count the number on one hand.

That has to change, along with greater awareness from every puck-out, their own and the opposition.

Ask any top manager in any code what was the big difference in their victory on the day. The answer is nearly always work-rate, Manchester City, Liverpool, across the water have it, Manchester United certainly don’t.

Tadhg de Búrca of Waterford bursts past the tackle of Mark Kehoe of Tipperary. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Tadhg de Búrca of Waterford bursts past the tackle of Mark Kehoe of Tipperary. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It might not always get you the result you desire but, by God, it will take you a long way. The Cork squad does not compare to what Limerick and Waterford have with regards to depth.

They don’t have enough players like Limerick had against Tipp to come in when the danger signs flash.

Though to be fair, Alan Connolly made a difference against Clare.

That’s reality but the players wearing red on Sunday must be maximised to the full extent, some changes will be necessary but this is not a game for wholesale changes.

There is still plenty of quality in this Cork team but that must be married with a savage work-rate, a proper strategic plan that must work better than it has.

The key players up front must get the kind of proper service that they can capitalise on and have done so in the not too distant past.

It’s still going to be a tall order to get out of Munster but if training has gone well and the attitude is right, the summer might not end on Sunday.

And as we stated, Waterford are under pressure too with a trip to Cusack Park.

Now is the hour for this Cork hurling squad. They must deliver.

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