Kieran Kingston: Cork looking forward to challenge of facing Waterford on the road

Dáire O'Leary is out with injury while Ger Millerick faces a late fitness test
Kieran Kingston: Cork looking forward to challenge of facing Waterford on the road

Cork manager Kieran Kingston speaks to his players as they assemble for the pre-match photograph before the Munster SHC game against Clare. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

CORK hurling manager Kieran Kingston hopes that the team can harness the spirit of 2021 as they face into a make-or-break Munster SHC clash against Waterford tomorrow (2pm).

After defeats to Limerick and Clare, the Rebels go to Walsh Park knowing that anything less than a victory will end their hopes of progressing to the All-Ireland series.

Last year, a loss to Limerick sent Cork into the qualifiers but a win against Clare set them back on track and all the way to the All-Ireland final. Kingston is optimistic that the team can draw upon those positive experiences.

“Absolutely,” he says, “and we’ve been tapping into that.

“That was the first time since 2006 that Cork won three knockout games in a row and that was a good boost in confidence for the lads and they got good experience from it.

“We need to tap into that now again on Sunday. It’s a big challenge against a good team but Cork traditionally have a good record going down to Walsh Park.

“I know from the lads that they’re eagerly looking forward to it because they know that their season hangs in the balance.”

In terms of player availability, Cork will be without Dáire O’Leary, who was forced off late in the Munster U20 semi-final against Tipperary, while Ger Millerick is a major doubt after he had to retire with a hamstring problem against Clare.

“Dáire O’Leary is definitely ruled out anyway,” Kingston says, “he’s still injured. Ger Millerick came off the last day with a hamstring and we’ll be fitness-testing him but he’s in a race against time, so to speak.

“Other than that, we’re good to go.”

The key thing is that there is a response and Kingston expects that there will be.

“Since the Clare game, to be fair to the lads, they’ve bounced back well,” he says.

“They were disappointed, obviously, for a few days and then got back on the pitch. Once they got back on the saddle, their reaction in training has been really good, really positive.

“When you find yourself in the first half of a game and with the start you’ve had, you’re always going to be struggling.

It doesn’t matter that you win the rest of the game 2-15 to 0-13, because you’ve given yourself too much to. That’s where the game was won and lost.

“I’ve no doubt that Waterford will be targeting a strong start as well, to get the home crowd behind them.

“It’s not as if we didn’t target a strong start against Clare – we did, and every team does, of course, to build momentum. We just didn’t get out of the blocks and that was it.

“It was the opposite against Limerick – we got out of the blocks well in both halves and the second quarter cost us. Against Clare, it was the total opposite.”

It’s a second meeting against Liam Cahill’s side in the space of six weeks, with Waterford winning by 4-20 to 1-23 in the Allianz Hurling League final at the beginning of April. While there are lessons to be taken from that, the more recent defeats are likely to be more informative as to how Cork approach the game.

Waterford manager Liam Cahill. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Waterford manager Liam Cahill. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

“Obviously, you’ll tap into it [league final] and take what we can from it, as we did,” he says, “no doubt your opposition will, as well.

“But I think that the championship has moved on a bit since then and it’s not the focus heading into this weekend. The last two games will take more of the focus.”

Waterford began with a win over Tipperary before losing to Limerick and a win for them would secure a place in the knockout stages as Cork and Tipp would be eliminated ahead of their clash in Thurles on Sunday week. At 4pm on Sunday, Clare host Limerick in Cusack Park with both sides having 100 percent records to date, the Banner from two games and the All-Ireland champions from three.

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